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CMS board lobbies in DC for federal money, broadband and better school lunches

CMS board Chair Stephanie Sneed, Vice Chair Dee Rankin and members Monty Witherspoon,
Charles Jeter
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
CMS board Chair Stephanie Sneed, Vice Chair Dee Rankin and members Monty Witherspoon, Summer Nunn, Lenora Shipp, Lisa Cline and Thelma Byers-Bailey (l-r) pose outside the office of Congresswoman Alma Adams on Monday.

Members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board spent Monday visiting legislative offices in Washington, D.C., to lobby for money, flexibility, broadband access and better cafeteria food.

School lunches are a federal issue because the U.S. Department of Agriculture subsidizes meals for students from low-income families. CMS board member Lisa Cline says that means participating districts have to buy food from a USDA-approved list of vendors.

CMS is seeking flexibility “to be able to pick vendors that kids will like the food, to get them to eat the school lunches,” Cline said. “Sometimes, you know, a chicken sandwich is not always a chicken sandwich. It will look different depending on the vendor.”

Cline said other items on the CMS list include:

  • Seeking more time to finish spending federal COVID-19 relief money that runs out at the end of this budget year.
  • Improving broadband access in urban areas. Efforts to improve access often focus on underserved rural areas, but Cline said there are spots in Charlotte and other cities where access is poor.
  • Urging lawmakers to support additional money for some federal programs, including the Title I program for high-poverty and low-performing schools.

The full school board went to D.C. for the Council of the Great City Schools’ legislative/policy conference, which started Saturday. Members broke into groups to visit the offices of Sen. Thom Tillis and Reps. Jeff Jackson, Alma Adams and Virginia Foxx on Monday.

The timing meant board members mostly met with staff because legislators don’t usually come in until Tuesday, which is when the CMS crew plans to head home, Cline said.

“We’re saving taxpayer money so we don’t have to spend an extra day here,” Cline said.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.