MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — This week a proposed operating budget of $1.7 billion was presented to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education.
The superintendent's budget proposal includes asking Mecklenburg County for just over half a billion dollars to fund teacher pay raises, opening new schools, and more student support staff.
After Wednesday's board meeting, education advocates and parents have complained the budget doesn’t reflect a clear plan to improve the district's achievements gaps.
The superintendent listed four board-outlined goals that drive the budget allocations. They are mainly focused on helping thousands of students who are severely behind in reaching major benchmarks.
- The percent of Black and Hispanic 3rd-grade students combined who score at the College and Career Ready (CCR) level -- a 4 or 5 -- in English Language Arts (ELA) will increase from 15.9% in October 2021 to 50.0%, by October 2024.
- The percentage of high school students (grades 9-12) who score at the College and Career (CCR) level -- a 4 or 5 -- in Math 1 will increase from <5% (4.5%) in October 2021 to 25% by October 2024.
- The percentage of graduates earning a state high school endorsement will increase from 61.2% in June 2021 to 75% by June 2024.
- The percentage of schools that met or exceeded expected Educator Value Added Assessment System (EVAAS) growth will increase from 71.7% in October 2019 to 95% by October 2024.
Members of the African American Faith Alliance, a Charlotte faith-based group focused on Black and Latino students' education outcomes, said the district doesn’t have a clear plan of how the money will help.
“You would see items that they're going to spend money on, but they don't talk about how they're going to use that money, and how will be integrated in a school improvement plan and drive instruction so that we can see some different academic outcomes for all students, but especially for African American and Latino students," Dennis Williams, the African American Faith Alliance Chairman, said.
This week, board member Sean Strain asked superintendent Earnest Winston about not connecting dollars to achievement goals. The question was asked during a presentation on assessments showing third-graders continue to fall behind in English Language Arts despite returning to the classroom.
“These are children’s futures so I’m very surprised to not see any reallocation or additional investment called out here in terms of support," Strain said.
CMS staff has previously given a breakdown of how proposed dollars would directly align with student outcomes at a budget meeting in February.
This week’s presentation did not.
"The greatest problem with CMS right now is the lack of accountability for academic outcomes," Ricky Woods, an African American Faith Alliance member, said. "They are a school system, their job is to educate if you cannot do that, then we need to find the people who can."
The final budget request won’t be voted on by the board for at least a month.
"Let me be clear, we are not interested in defunding education," Woods said. "We are for fully funded education. We want it funded with accountability."