On Thursday, May 17th, there was a meeting of the Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners at which Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools formally presented its proposed 2018-19 budget. The budget asks for a $40 million increase in county money for next year.
If you’re interested in watching the meeting, you can find video of it here. It’s not for the faint of heart.
One of the requests in the CMS budget is for $6.9 million to increase the local supplement for the first time since 2012 and enable Mecklenburg County to do a better job of hiring and retaining teachers.
Comparisons are often made between Wake County and Mecklenburg County as the two largest school districts in the state. Wake County’s local salary supplement is roughly $1500 higher than what teachers in Mecklenburg County earn. According to the Department of Public Instruction’s 2016-2017 State of the Teaching Profession in North Carolina report, last year Charlotte Mecklenburg saw an attrition percentage of 10% while only 8.6% of teachers in Wake County chose to leave.
Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools is proposing an increase of 7% to the local supplement. For a teacher with 10 years of experience, that comes out to less than $2 a day. It’s not too much to ask.
Another proposal in this year’s budget is for increasing the number of student support services personnel. Our school counselors, psychologists, and social workers play a vital role in ensuring that our students are socially and emotionally healthy. Unfortunately, they are so understaffed that they are constantly stuck in reactive mode, unable to utilize their training in the preventative services that our students need. Take a look at our current staffing ratios compared with what is recommended:
The 2018-19 CMS budget calls for $4.4 million to hire 33 elementary school counselors, 17 school social workers, and 10 school psychologists. It’s not nearly enough, but it’s a step in the right direction.
When pressed by Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour to offer his top priorities for the entire budget, Superintendent Wilcox named our students’ social and emotional health and fair compensation for employees. Commissioner Jim Puckett scoffed at prioritizing social and emotional health, asking “How does that relate to education?”
It’s actually a really important question. Research says:
- Interventions that improve students’ social, emotional, and decision-making skills also lead to stronger academic outcomes.
- Interventions that nurture engagement in school reduce dropout rates.
- Prevention and early intervention programs that serve at-risk students result in fewer special education referrals, suspensions, and grade retentions.
Of course the ability to implement those interventions effectively depends in large part on having a reasonable caseload. Our Charlotte Meck support services caseloads are certainly not reasonable.
On Monday, June 4 there will be a public hearing on the budget, 6 pm at the Government Center building in Charlotte. If you are a supporter of public education, please consider coming out and asking our county commissioners to fully fund Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools’ budget request.
If you don’t want to wait that long to let our commissioners know what your priorities are as a Mecklenburg County resident, you can find contact information here.