County funding will avoid some layoffs at CMS, but not all

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will be able to keep 570 educators, including 406 classroom teachers, because of an additional $26 million in county funding. However, district officials cautioned that layoffs may still be needed, depending on the final state budget.

The $26 million will be applied to three items in Tier 4 of the district’s proposed budget, which included about $101 million in proposed cuts. The items included teachers related to weighted student staffing, class size and instructional support staff in schools. By design, the fourth tier includes the reductions most likely to affect student achievement. District leadership told the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners during budget talks in June that any additional funding would be applied to Tier 4, starting at the bottom of the tier and working up.

“We will use the $26 million just as we told the county that we would,” said Chief Operating Officer Hugh Hattabaugh. “The $26 million will mean we don’t have to increase class sizes and we don’t have to change our weighted-student staffing formula. Together those two items add up to $24 million – and we’ll apply the remaining $2 million to the next item in the tier, which is support staff in schools.”

The remaining items in Tier 4 that the county money did not cover are a reduction of 328 teacher assistants and a reduction in the number of Bright Beginnings classes offered by CMS.

“We do not know whether we will have to make the additional reductions in Tier 4 yet,” Hattabaugh said. “It will depend on the state funding and we won’t know that until the state budget is final.”

District officials expect to have final state numbers by the end of June. The state budget appears likely to be resolved sooner than it has been in earlier years, so CMS could have those numbers earlier than usual.

The district’s proposed budget included eliminating 1,687 positions. The county funding has allowed the district to preserve 406 teacher positions and some support staff. If funding allows the district to keep its current number of Bright Beginnings pre-kindergarten classes with associated staffing and the 328 teacher assistants scheduled for reduction in Tier 4, that would bring the number of positions cut to about 600, Hattabaugh said. Final numbers won’t be available until the state funding is certain, which will be later in the summer.

The district has decided to close the pre-kindergarten centers where Bright Beginnings has been offered. If Bright Beginnings is not cut, then the classes will move to other district schools, he said. Teachers will not lose their jobs if that occurs, but other school staff may.

“While we’re relieved not to have to cut more teachers, we’ve still had to cut hundreds of positions from the budget,” Hattabaugh said. “We have had a reduction in force for the past three years and that has meant some very effective district employees have lost their jobs.”