Education

CMS superintendent seeks 15% hike in county funding. Teachers, staff would get raises.

Superintendent Clayton Wilcox on Tuesday proposed a 15 percent hike in county funding for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools next year, with nearly half the extra $70 million going to teacher and staff pay raises.
Superintendent Clayton Wilcox on Tuesday proposed a 15 percent hike in county funding for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools next year, with nearly half the extra $70 million going to teacher and staff pay raises. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

Superintendent Clayton Wilcox on Tuesday proposed a 15 percent hike in county funding for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools for the next school year, with nearly half of the extra $70 million going to teacher and staff pay raises.

Millions more would go toward CMS’ work in trying to close racial and economic disparities that are reflected in academic achievement, and in student support programs for which more social workers, counselors and psychologists would be hired.

“The scale of our investments, we think, have to match the potential of our students,” Wilcox told the board. “But we believe our kids are worth it.”

CMS gets nearly 60 percent of its funding from the state, but drama typically accompanies its request to county commissioners. Clayton’s budget proposal must be approved by the CMS board, likely in April, before it goes to the county for a final decision in June.

CMS ranked 90th of 115 North Carolina school districts in per-pupil spending in 2018.

In the current fiscal year, CMS runs on a $1.49 billion operating budget that includes $459.8 million from the county. The $1.61 billion operating budget Wilcox proposed Tuesday for 2019-20 is an overall 8 percent increase. The $529.8 million Wilcox proposes asking from county commissioners would be a 15 percent increase.

Higher pay for teachers and staff account for $32.5 million of the increase Wilcox is seeking.

The money would increase the local supplement teachers are paid, making those supplements the state’s highest plus 1 percent. Teacher pay could rise an estimated 5 percent depending on salary increases set in the state budget this summer.

Taken together, those raises could increase a second-year teacher’s salary by $2,400 a year, CMS said, and $4,000 annually for those with 25 years of experience. Fulltime CMS teachers made an average of $52,122 last year, including stipends and bonuses, The Observer reported last May.

Gov. Roy Cooper has proposed a 9.1 percent average increase in teacher pay over two years. State Superintendent Mark Johnson has proposed raises of 5 to 7 percent for all teachers and more pay for those who take on advanced teaching roles, such as by earning master’s degrees.

Non-certified CMS staff, such as teaching assistants, would have their minimum pay set at $13.22 an hour under Wilcox’s proposed budget. Teaching assistant hours would also increase, from 37.5 to 40 hours a week.

“Teachers, this is a great first step,” said CMS board chair Mary McCray, a retired teacher. “Now what you do in the classroom, you have to step up.”

The budget proposal includes $21.8 million for social and emotional support programs, custodians and preventive maintenance on buildings. School security, a focal point for CMS since a Butler High student was fatally shot last October, would get an extra $4.2 million.

Wilcox proposed $9.4 million in spending on equity programs, increasing the money available for fine arts curricula and “cultural proficiency” training for staff and students.

The spending to reduce inequities in the district continues an emphasis that began more than a year ago, when Wilcox told board members that “some students get what they need to learn and succeed but many others do not.”

On Monday, the board’s policy committee approved a draft equity policy that will now go to two public hearings before it reaches the full CMS board.

Community workshops on the budget will be held April 3 at Mallard Creek High School and April 11 at Crown Point Elementary. Both sessions will run from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

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