Education

Superintendent says state is pushing ‘unfunded mandates’ on schools

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent said the state is pushing “unfunded mandates” on school districrts, while speaking at Pineville Elementary on Wednesday.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent said the state is pushing “unfunded mandates” on school districrts, while speaking at Pineville Elementary on Wednesday. adunn@charlotteobserver.com

Superintendent Ann Clark said Wednesday that the state is pushing “unfunded mandates” on North Carolina’s school districts that are curtailing the breadth of new programs in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Her remarks came a day after she unveiled her recommendation for next year’s CMS budget. It calls for $39.9 million more in funding from Mecklenburg County, but only a fraction of that would go toward new initiatives.

About $6 million would go toward literacy programs, including adding professional development for teachers and expanding summer reading camps, which currently serve rising fourth-graders, to rising third-graders. Another $9.8 million was requested to cover 2 percent raises for employees who don’t end up getting a pay bump from the state legislature this year.

Most of the rest would go to maintaining current operations amid a changing state budget landscape. Clark called two of the changes unfunded mandates.

The first: North Carolina is ending its funding for driver’s ed programs, leading CMS to ask for $2.6 million to cover them. And second, the state is also planning to cut the money it pays for bus transportation. School districts are legally required to provide both.

Clark said they contributed to her not requesting what the district truly needs. Instead, she made a very “modest” request, she said.

Clark said she will be traveling to Raleigh on Monday to lobby on behalf of CMS. But she said the ultimate responsibility for Mecklenburg County students falls to the school board and county commissioners.

Those commissioners will begin to weigh the CMS proposal next month.

Commissioner Bill James said Wednesday he thought it would be “a real stretch” because the board has committed to no tax increases this year. He said the county budget is facing its own pressures from the state.

Dunn: 704-358-5235;

Twitter: @andrew_dunn

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