How much would you pay to avoid cuts to CMS's annual operating budget? With an $82.5 million decrease looming for the 2010-2011 school year, the list of possible cuts is a long one. These likely include the loss of teacher and other staff jobs and potential consolidating of schools.
A large part of the district's budget comes from Mecklenburg County property taxes, which are currently assessed at $0.8387 per $100. One solution is to raise the property tax 1-4%, and avoid some (if not) all of the budget cuts.
Some citizens who do not have children in CMS say that it is not 'their job' to pay for other's children's education. Like it or not, education is a socialized institution, the quality of which affects everyone in the community. Pretend you don't have kids, but one day you need a financial advisor (you have a high amount of liquid assets because you didn't have the expense of kids to raise). Wouldn't you want someone who had a high quality education to oversee your assets? Or imagine that you own a small business. Do you want to pay more for an employee you need to relocate from another part of the US? Wouldn't you rather hire someone locally, who knows the area and can anticipate the needs of your company? Instead, imagine that you were seeking a place to relocate your business, one with a well-equipped, well-educated workforce? Well, if you invested in local education, then you can feel confident in the ability of those employees.
In the past week, Mecklenburg citizens have proven that they don't mind dipping into their pockets to save public institutions. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library system is facing a $2 million cut. The library board of trustees is proposing the closing of 12 libraries. The library total budget is $35 million, but they are threatening to close half their branches; CMS took a $95 million cut from their $1.1 billion budget without closing any schools in 2009-2010. In under a week, county residents have raised $182,469 in an effort to 'save' the libraries. The first thing you see when you go into a library is a poster encouraging you to donate to the cause, and the last thing you see is the disheartened face of a library employee at the circulation desk asking you to do the same. The last time you dropped your child off at school, did their teacher ask you to donate to the school system so she didn't have to lose her job? Did your child's bus driver send a flyer home asking you to save the schools?
Would you if they did?
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library system is arguably a worthy cause to fight for, but so are our schools. Surely plenty of parents, teachers, and concerned citizens alike will show up to the next few board meetings and argue why jobs shouldn't be cut and schools shouldn't be closed. But will they pass a hat around when they're done? The fact is that there is just not enough money to go around the district, and even with small cuts to things like employee vehicles, dental insurance, middle school sports, and CMS TV, it's not enough to affect the big picture.
What is Charlotte-Mecklenburg willing to sacrifice for the future of our schools?