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CMS wish list: Higher teacher pay, control over charters

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  • Legislative agenda

    Some of the items contained in the draft version of CMS’ legislative agenda:

    -- Adding student academic growth to student proficiency (test scores) as a way of measuring student achievement.

    -- Give local school systems more flexibility in deciding how to use state money.

    -- Begin a phased, multi-year approach to raising teacher base pay to the national average

    -- Give final authority to chartering schools to local school boards.

    -- Allow local school systems to construct academic calendars (state law currently mandates start and end dates for the school year)



Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board members are considering a plan that would ask state lawmakers for a change in the state’s budgeting timetable, more pay for teachers, and control over approval of charter schools.

Those are among a number of proposals contained in a draft of CMS’ annual legislative agenda -- a series of requests made to Raleigh through local lawmakers.

Other requests in the preliminary plan include asking for a change in the school report card program that would include a measurement of student growth, in addition to performance on end-of-grade tests; more flexibility in designing a school calendar; and a promise to fund pay-for-performance bonuses even in years when money is tight.

Board members discussed the plan during a work session Tuesday afternoon at Mallard Creek High School.

Several of the proposals are not new and have encountered opposition from lawmakers in the past.

One request that generated plenty of discussion Tuesday would have the General Assembly set its budget earlier in the year, to help CMS and other school systems avoid dealing with last-minute staffing and program cuts.

“It’s a long shot,” board member Tim Morgan said of the request. “But it’s there so they (lawmakers) realize how their decisions affect us.”

Currently, county commissioners and state lawmakers typically make school funding decisions in June and July. But the fiscal year for school systems begins July 1, and educators often find themselves receiving more or less money than expected after they have decided on program additions or cuts. In recent years, CMS officials have drawn criticism from some local and state legislators for announcing staff cuts -- only to reverse those cuts when county or state funding decisions are finalized.

Another proposal likely to draw heat is titled “ensure a level regulatory playing field for public and charter schools.”

“In most other regions of the country, charter authority is granted through the local school district,” Superintendent Heath Morrison said.

Morgan, who helped draw up the legislative agenda, said CMS wants there to be “one set of rules” for charter schools and public schools.

In North Carolina, charter schools are granted a considerable amount of freedom in budgeting and other decisions. They are managed by groups of parents or, in some cases, private companies.

“At the end of the day, they are our children -- children of Mecklenburg County,” Morrison said. “The more we make it not seem like ‘us versus them,’ the more we can work together in collaboration.”

Rockingham County Superintendent Rodney Shotwell last week proposed his school system open its own charter schools. The CMS proposal does not call for that.

Board member Mary McCray said the proposal to raise teacher pay to the national average will help North Carolina school systems attract and retain good teachers.

“We know pay is not the sole thing that brings teachers into a district, but it can keep them there,” she said, adding that Virginia and Georgia teacher pay is considerably higher than North Carolina and puts the Tar Heel State at a disadvantage in recruiting. “We’re not talking about doing this overnight. We’re talking about phasing it in.”

Another potentially controversial proposal would allow local school boards to have taxing authority, as is the case in many northern and Midwest states. In North Carolina, local funding is approved by county commissioners, and the money comes from the general county revenue.

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