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Charlotte Area

Community Reacts To Proposed CMS Budget Cuts

http://66.225.205.104/LM20110112.mp3

The winter weather kept many close-followers of CMS from attending Superintendent Peter Gorman's presentation Tuesday to cut $100 million from the budget. But many were watching via CMS-TV and online and forming their opinions on whether those cuts made sense. There were a few dozen people that ventured out Tuesday to put their two cents in about what not to cut. Several people showed up to support the district's pre-kindergarten program for poor kids called Bright Beginnings. Mary Groth, a pre-k teacher, urged the board not to touch a program that she says helps narrow the achievement gap between low-income and well-to-do students. "A large number of our children confidently march into their next level of learning, the gap's been closed. They're ready for kindergarten," said Groth. "The thought of dismissing the educational needs of many of our 4 and 5 year-old children makes my heart sick." Gorman recommends keeping the program, but it would only serve about half of the 3,200 students it does now. Another touchy issue involved weighted student staffing, the district's initiative to put more teachers at struggling schools. Gorman wants that to remain intact too. Currently these schools are served by an additional 800 teachers, but that would be reduced by 134 positions. Levester Flowers with the group Save Our Schools would rather cuts be made to magnet transportation, which costs about a thousand dollars per student or $5-$9 million. But he says there are political realities that make that difficult. "I feel like they're sensitive to the needs of students that are behind and need help catching up, but I also feel that there is in CMS an appeasement to people who have power too," says Flowers. CMS parent Ericka Ellis-Stewart is still forming her thoughts on budget cuts. She has kids at two magnet schools Harding and Randolph IB. She's glad Gorman did not recommend cutting magnet transportation. "But I'm not naive enough to think it's not still on the table or there are not board members who would vote to eliminate it down the road," says Ellis Stewart. She would like the board to take a closer look at deeper cuts to the back office to make up for reductions to Bright Beginnings and weighted student staffing. The board plans to make decisions on Bright Beginnings, magnet transportation, weighted student staffing and school start and end times on January 25th. The public will be able to weigh in on proposed cuts at that meeting.