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Gorman: Budget Cuts Could Jeopardize Academic Gains

CMS Superintendent Peter Gorman gave his annual State of the Schools speech Friday. It comes at a time when the district is talking about closing schools to save money while parents and students are doing their best to resist that. State of the School addresses often involve some bragging. Even though CMS has been the subject of many biting insults this past week, there has been success to boast about. The district's graduation rate rose by almost four percentage points in the past school year. The achievement gap between white and African American and Hispanic students is narrowing. These improvements have been made as CMS cut $150 million from its budget over the past two years. That's how Gorman began, but then the gloom quickly crept in. "Will we be able to continue to make progress? For the first time I have to say I don't know," said Gorman. "The cuts we expect to make this year are so large they could put our reforms, the changes we're making to improve academic performance, in jeopardy." Gorman estimates the district will have to cut between $50 and $100 million next year. The district's plan to close and consolidate schools would save $9 million over the first two years. "Emotions are running high and there's a lot of anger and fear," said Gorman. "But we're now not at the point of deciding to close schools or We are now at the point of deciding to close schools and It's a different time." Afterward, Gorman repeated his logic for the closings: it will prevent CMS from laying off as many teachers next year. Board Chairman Eric Davis attended the speech. He looked worn out from the past few weeks of contentious school forums. "Right now there's no indication that the state or county will be able to not reduce our funding," said Davis. "I certainly hope that they will find a way, but we have to plan for that eventuality. So that means we need to consider every one of the proposals that's currently on the table." CMS will hold another forum for Smith Language Academy parents and students next week. The district wants to move the school into Harding University High School. The board expects to vote on the closings on November 9th.