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Federal government gives CMS $25.7m

If you have been following the 2010 CMS budget crisis, then you know how in need the school system is of money. Decreased funds from the county and state have forced CMS to lay off teachers and support staff, charge students to participate in athletics, change transportation routes, and even delay lawn maintenance over the summer. It is clear that the Charlotte Mecklenburg School System is barely keeping its “head” above water.

So when the federal government threw the school system a lifesaver in the form of $25.7 million, many assumed the 2010-2011 school year wouldn't be the shipwreck of a year the school board and staff had planned for.

Or would it?

The $25.7 million comes from Congress's efforts to save teachers' jobs. It can only be used for compensation and benefits for school-based staff. That means it can't be used for athletics fees, transportation, or central-office personnel. What the money could do is hire about 467 new classroom teachers this year.

However, due to concerns about both next year's budget and the timing of the funds actually being received, Superintendent Dr. Peter Gorman has recommended to the CMS School Board that it save the funds for a rainier day: the 2011-2012 school year.

The last two years have been extremely tight budgetarily, and the trend will only continue. It is estimated that there will be a $50 million federal funding deficit in the 2011-2012 school year when stabilizing funds are expected to dry up. CMS could be in even more need then.

Even if CMS did decide to use the $25.7 million to hire teachers this year, it would be October before they were in the classroom. Gorman worries about disruption to classes if master schedules were to change one quarter of the way through school. Also, teachers who start the year after day 1 in any school system are statistically less effective than those who start on time, per data from Harvard University.

What Gorman is recommending is to use a small amount ($3.7 million) to hire some non-classroom (but still school-based) positions this school year. Each Zone Superintendent will be responsible for assessing the needs of individual schools. How the needs are to be assessed is unclear. Some of the positions that could be filled this year include academic facilitators (who directly support students) or “other educational personnel” such as academic coaches, who support teachers.

“It's a lot of money and we're glad to see so much funding support for education at the federal level. But we need to plan around the restrictions on the funding and our particular budget circumstances this year and next year. We think using most of it next year is the wisest course,” said Gorman on the recommendations.



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