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CMS Passes The Buck And The Blame

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This week’s public hearing for the county manager’s recommended budget unfolded as predicted, with scores of teachers and education advocates packing the government center to pressure commissioners into providing additional funding to cover proposed pay raises for teachers.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teachers, who have seen their salaries frozen since 2008, had the right message but the wrong target. Their ire and outrage should be directed at the school board, not the county board. If CMS values its front-line educators, money to compensate them accordingly should be easy enough to find in the district’s billion dollar-plus budget, as County Manager Harry Jones rightfully noted when he rolled out his budget recommendation.

CMS, instead, continues to spend its way into oblivion, refusing to privatize non-academic operations where significant savings could be had, handing out top dollar six-figure salaries like candy to non-essential bureaucrats, funding unproven but politically popular pre-K programs, and funneling millions of dollars into a platinum-plated public relations machine to push the message that CMS is stone broke.

Don’t fall for the con job. Think about it: the school board chairman bemoans missing a taxpayer-funded junket to London and CMS doles out nearly $8,000 to fly its newly minted superintendent around the country, while front-line educators are reduced to pleading for a 2-percent pay raise, the first salary bump they will have seen in three years.

The county manager’s proposed budget already includes a $9.1 million funding increase for CMS, which is more than generous coming off the $27 million increase the district received last year. Commissioners should stick with the manager’s recommendation: if CMS values teachers and wants to reward them with pay raises, the board of education can find the money to do so using existing resources.

School board members, in turn, need to drop their annual blame game and stop trying to con the public into thinking the district’s funding well has been tapped and drained dry. It hasn’t.

CMS can find the money needed to give teachers a modest pay raise, and district leaders should do it without passing the buck and the blame to commissioners.

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