CMS lets teachers make pitch for budget hike

slyttle@charlotteobserver.comMay 14, 2014 

One day after watching the Charlotte-Mecklelnburg School Board unanimously approve a budget asking for a $46.2 million increase in local funding, Superintendent Heath Morrison let teachers make the sales pitch for a pay raise Wednesday.

“We can’t have our great teachers leave, then somehow think we’re getting better,” Morrison said at Whitewater Academy, this week’s site of the superintendent’s weekly news conference.

About $27 million of the new funding will be used to provide CMS staff with a 3 percent pay raise. Gov. Pat McCrory also has proposed a pay hike for teachers in North Carolina, which has slipped to near the bottom nationally in teacher pay.

Shannon Cox, a third-grade teacher at Whitewater Academy, told the media about the impact of stagnant teacher salaries in her life.

“After six years of teaching, I’m still making first-year teacher pay,” Cox said. “I got into this business because I believe that if we’re going to make a positive change in the community, it will happen through education.

“But staying with that mission has become a challenge.”

Cox recounted her recent efforts to find a new place to live. She found herself unable to afford most apartment prices. Finally, she found a place. “And it wasn’t in a high-rent area,” she said.

But she was required to put down about three times the normal amount for a security deposit, she said, because apartment management was concerned she couldn’t afford monthly rent.

“It’s difficult to prepare for the classroom when you’re worried about how you’ll be able to pay the bills,” Cox said.

Fellow staff member Kristin Hahn and Kathy Barner, parent of a Whitewater Academy student, also expressed support for the budget request.

CMS officials and Mecklenburg County commissioners are expected to meet next week for a discussion of the proposed $1.3 billion county funding of the schools. Some commissioners have said they’re skeptical that the county can afford such an increase.

And Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour, who followed Tuesday night’s school board meeting on social media, emailed the Observer to say CMS leaders were stirring up parents to support the budget proposal and put pressure on commissioners.

Morrison said he knows local and state officials have voiced support for teachers, but he added, “You show your priorities by your actions.”

Lyttle: 704-358-6107; Twitter: @slyttle

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