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Private CMS/County Meeting Brings No Progress On School Budget Standoff

WFAE/Steve Harrison
County Manager Dena Diorio has proposed withholding $56 million from CMS until officials provide more data about racial inequities.

A private meeting Tuesday between leaders of Mecklenburg County and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools brought no meaningful progress on a dispute over the budget and school performance.

On May 6, County Manager Dena Diorio unveiled a budget plan that would withhold $56 million in county funding from CMS until district leaders provide more details about improving racial inequities in schools. Soon afterward, commissioners’ Chair George Dunlap called for a meeting between the chair and vice chair of both bodies, along with the superintendent and county manager.

That meeting happened Tuesday morning, one day before commissioners will start taking unofficial budget votes. School board Chair Elyse Dashew said there wasn’t much progress.

"They were kind of reiterating the demands, expectations that they have been arguing in the public," she said.

Dashew said CMS has already presented data about plans to improve school performance to county officials, and she doesn’t think it’s appropriate to create new reports based on threats to withhold money.

"Their role is not to approve strategic plans — you know, they’re not an oversight board," she said.

Dunlap said he’ll recap the meeting with CMS officials for his board Wednesday and wouldn’t comment before that.

Dashew said no one brought up Dunlap’s recent comments questioning Superintendent Earnest Winston’s credentials and performance.

"The superintendent is really not focused on his ego. He is focused on academic success for kids," Dashew said. "Nothing else really fazes him. He’s not losing any sleep over that."

County commissioners will take “straw poll” votes on the budget Wednesday and Thursday before an official vote next week.

Unlike meetings of the full board, small-group meetings like the one held Tuesday are not required to be open to the public. However, Dashew recorded the meeting and WFAE requested a copy. Get the audio file here.

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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.