New Budget for Charlotte Schools — Many Teachers at Struggling Schools to Lose Their Jobs

Written by Jason Thomas for www.schoolsk-12.com

Amidst much public skepticism over spending by the Charlotte schools, Superintendent Peter Gorman unveiled his proposed budget in March.
 
Prior to the budget’s release, the Charlotte schools hosted six community forums to discuss with parents the superintendent’s strategic plan for education in the Charlotte schools. By the fifth meeting held in mid-March, only 12 parents attended.
 
Throughout the forums, parents have been very vocal about their concerns. Many are very skeptical about the spending habits of the Charlotte schools’ officials, wondering aloud if taxpayer money is being spent properly in educating their children and especially the money being spent building new schools. One district board member, Tom Tate, noted that overcrowding in the Charlotte schools is a real concern and will always be an issue. He said that the district cannot build new schools fast enough to accommodate all of the children.
 
In the face of these public concerns, Superintendent Gorman intends to move forward with his new initiatives, school growth plans, and educator raises. His $1.16 billion budget for the 2007-2008 school year is ten percent higher than last year. Gorman defends this increase by citing the following:
 
  • Unlike many public schools across the nation, the Charlotte schools continue in their student population growth. During the 2007-2008 school year, the Charlotte schools expect an influx of more than 5,000 new students, which adds additional costs for their education and needed services.
  • The opening of two new Charlotte schools during the 2007-2008 school year adds additional costs to the district in the operation of the facilities.
  • Some of the superintendent’s initiatives include programs that are geared toward smaller class sizes. There will be costs to creating these smaller classes, as well as implementing the initiatives.
  • Due to the increase in the student population, the opening of two new schools, and smaller class sizes, an additional 600 employees must be hired. Costs include salaries and benefits.
 
The budget does include $17.3 million in cuts and money reallocations. This includes $6.2 million at the central office of the Charlotte schools. There is another $1.7 million for reducing the number of assistant principals at some elementary schools.
 
Additionally, some personnel cuts will be made due to poor performance. There are four struggling high schools in the district — West Meck, West Charlotte, Waddell and Garinger. Last fall, Gorman gave the teachers an ultimatum to raise student test scores or look for other employment. Since the beginning of this year, 84 teachers were placed on action plans. The plans are meant to assist teachers to address areas of weakness and improve classroom performance, according to Ann Clark, regional superintendent for high schools.
 
Only 39 teachers remain on action plans. Of the remaining 45 teachers, 27 improved their performance and were taken off the plans, and 18 left the Charlotte schools through retirement, resignation or dismissal. Of those on action plans who now face dismissal, they will continue to work through the end of this school year to give them ample time to find other employment.
 
As to the budget increases, Gorman insists that it is the smallest increase in local funding over the past three years. He is asking the county for an additional $30 million in funding for the Charlotte schools.
 
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