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Report: wide range in per student funding at CMS schools

A report on spending at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools per pupil shows high poverty schools receive significantly more than low-poverty schools. The report, based on a 2001 policy on equity in CMS, has raised questions among school board members about its relevance today. WFAE's Simone Orendain reports: The CMS equity policy is aimed at getting more resources to students at risk of failing. The annual equity report tracks factors including qualifications of teachers and the availability of library staff and books, textbooks and technology across all its schools. It looks at how much the district spends per student at each school. Last school year, the spending varied from about $4,300 at Polo Ridge Elementary, where six percent of students qualify for free or discounted lunch to around $12,000 at Hawthorne High, where 90 percent of kids qualify for free or reduced lunch. Board member Rhonda Lennon says student success depends on more than spending. "We're meeting the standards on so many of these issues, yet we're still not meeting the student achievement that we need to in many of these schools. So I'm failing to see a connection between the number of textbooks and the number of 27-inch TV's to the number of students that are improving," says Lennon. Schools that received significantly more than the $6,000 average per student need additional classroom resources and have lower teacher-student ratios. They also offer incentives to hire and retain teachers. Schools where less is allocated per student than the average tend to be high performing and overcrowded. They have more parental involvement, which means active PTAs that are able to fundraise well. The report also shows schools that struggle academically have very few or no National Board Certified teachers. In the district, 29 percent of all schools have such teachers. Superintendent Peter Gorman says board certified teachers in CMS make more gains in student growth than their peers who aren't certified. Board member Richard McElrath pushed for getting more certified teachers into schools that struggle academically. "If you assign a teacher to a school and they don't want to go there, they ought to be able to give a written reason why not," he says. "And let's evaluate that reason why they don't want to go. And if they're not willing to do that, I think you need to let them know they are public servants. And like any other public servant, you've got to go where the public needs you the most." This is likely the last time the equity report will include these current measures. For the past few days, the school board has repeatedly agreed that the standards being measured are outdated and do not provide a clear picture of how the district is doing in its efforts to attain student achievement.