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CMS studies ‘bad choices’ to save jobs

May 1, 2013 by

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board Tuesday reviewed what one member called “a series of bad choices” for coping with possible state cuts to teacher assistants.

CMS has polled about 1,900 assistants and principals on whether they’d support cutting the hours and/or days assistants work – reducing their already low pay – if it meant saving dozens of jobs. Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget plan would cut about 3,000 teacher-assistant jobs statewide, a move his staff says would be offset by adding teachers.

“I can’t believe that our governor would even propose this. He knows this school system,” said board member Eric Davis.

He and other members say losing assistants will undermine a state-mandated push to get all third-graders proficient in reading.

“It’s the right challenge, to get all of our students to high literacy levels by third grade,” said Superintendent Heath Morrison.

The discussion came as the board reviewed Morrison’s $1.2 billion budget plan for 2013-14. The money comes from the state, county and federal governments, and the outlook for all three remains uncertain two weeks before the board’s vote.

The key part of Morrison’s plan is a request for almost $366 million from Mecklenburg County, a $28.5 million increase over the current year.

Morrison is proposing almost $20 million in new initiatives, including new technology and magnet programs. The district also faces rising costs and a projected increase in enrollment.

Morrison’s proposal calls for 1 percent raises for the district’s 18,000-plus employees, based on McCrory’s recommendation. Board members informally agreed Tuesday that the plan they take to county commissioners should reflect their hope that state legislators will approve a 3 percent raise. That would require an additional $4.4 million in county money.

Chief Human Resources Officer Kelly Gwaltney presented the options for assistants that were offered in the recent poll of principals and assistants. They ranged from accepting the loss of about 400 assistant jobs if McCrory’s budget is approved, to shifting assistants from a 215-day work year and eight-hour day to 7.5 hours and 200 days. That option, the most extreme, would save about 131 jobs, Gwaltney said. But an assistant currently earning $22,000 a year would drop to $19,185.

Gwaltney and Morrison presented no results from the poll.

When member Tom Tate asked when they’d get that information, Gwaltney replied, “Hopefully soon.”

Gwaltney said she’s still compiling more than 600 suggestions submitted with the poll. Morrison said he wants to present the whole thing to employees before going public.

The board is scheduled to vote on a budget request May 14, with county commissioners voting on their budget in June.

via CMS studies ‘bad choices’ to save jobs | CharlotteObserver.com.

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