Gorman Discusses Budget Cuts
CMS Superintendent Peter Gorman says the district is facing the most severe funding shortage since the Great Depression. On Tuesday, he outlined a series of cuts to reduce the budget by more than $100 million. Superintendent Peter Gorman spoke with WFAE's Julie Rose on Morning Edition. Click here to listen. ROSE: Superintendent Gorman thanks for your time. GORMAN: Good morning. ROSE: Do you expect students in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools to lose ground academically due to these cuts? GORMAN: Well, we hope not, but I think there will be some impact on academic advancement in a couple different ways. The first way is, you'll get high school students - if they can't take all the courses that they could have in the past - because of reduced course offerings (whether it be electives or larger general educations classes or vocational classes) then yes, they're losing ground. If you look at the amount of one-on-one time that a teacher can spend with a student or with first and second grade classes which no longer have teacher assistants teaching students to read, then yes, there will be some academic loss. I certainly don't want to set up excuses for not increasing student achievement, but it is just the reality at some point in time. We have to let folks know that based on the supply of dollars we have, we can produce certain things, but we can no longer tell folks that we're going to get more out of less. ROSE: Now, we don't know exactly what the CMS budget will be for the next year because the county and state have yet to decide how much funding they will allocate for the district. So how do you know the cuts are going to be this drastic? GORMAN: We are basing this off of the information we've received from the state office of budget and also in the loss of federal stimulus funds. We have right now assumed that we won't have any loss at the county level. If there is a loss of funds at the county level it could exceed $100 million in reduction. ROSE: Dr. Gorman, we don't seem to hear about nearby districts making the deep cuts that CMS is making. Why is that? GORMAN: There's a couple reasons. We're much farther out front then other districts and were making these cuts earlier, while they will be doing it later. Another reason is that we've cut over $50 million out of our budget in county funding. The next largest county has cut $2 million. That doesn't mean the county doesn't want to fund us, but the county is going through a tough economic time and they don't have the money to fund us. But we've gone from $350 million in county funding to $300 million. That hasn't happened to our surrounding counties. In some areas, they didn't have that funding in the first place. We've also got the situation where we have many more students living in poverty in Mecklenburg County then other counties do. There are unique challenges for teaching kids that live in poverty that require more resources in some cases. ROSE: Given the grim picture you laid out yesterday - hundreds of jobs lost and class sizes getting bigger, students' schedules changing dramatically and a loss of middle school sports - a lot of changes you laid out are pretty startling to parents - do you think students are better off going to private schools if their parents can afford it? GORMAN: Absolutely not. However, I think private schools are a viable option. Families need to look at what's the best choice to them, whether it be private school, charter school, public school or home schooling. That's an individual choice that families have to make. We continue to do high quality work. We've increased student achievement in every area across the board, but at the same point in time we've got to be truthful and tell folks that we can't continue to do some of the things that we have done. Should you go and spend $15,000 on private school? I think you can get a quality education from public school. ROSE: In the thirty seconds or so we have left, what could lawmakers do to make things easier for dealing with these cuts, aside from obviously giving the district more money? Is their something lawmakers could do? GORMAN: There's a couple different things. One piece is we have to focus on making sure as we have to reduce in staff that we're letting the right staff go. We truly want to keep our quality staff, but when we have to lose people we want to lose people who are the lowest performers. Not have it done based on years of experience or long-term contracts. So that's first and foremost what we need to have. ROSE: Dr. Gorman thank you very much for your time. GORMAN: Thank you.