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New CMS Budget Approved Before Presentation to County

$2.1 billion budget includes pay increases for teachers

a portrait of the nine leaders on the 2024 Board of Education
CMS Board of Education. (Courtesy of CMS)

CMS Superintendent Dr. Crystal Hill and other CMS leaders held a news conference Wednesday to share updates on the 2024-25 budget, which was approved by the CMS Board of Education (BOE) at its meeting on Tuesday, as well as the district’s Strategic Plan and other initiatives.

The approved budget, originally proposed by Hill in December 2023, consists of just under $2.1 billion in revenue from the federal government, state and county. 

According to a BOE press release, the budget includes:

  • Pay increases for teachers and staff to support retention and recruitment of the workforce needed to support more than 141,000 students throughout 186 schools.
  • A request for capital funds to address needs identified in the Facilities Condition Assessment which excludes schools impacted by the recently passed bond.

Hill will present a request for $653 million in funding to Mecklenburg County Commissioners at its meeting on May 8, a $56-million increase in country finding compared to last year’s allocation. The bump comprises a $42.2-million increase in recurring operating funds, $4 million in operating funds and an increase in $10 million for capital projects.

Following public input sessions held throughout the spring, the budget approved at Tuesday night’s meeting asks for about $10 million less than Hill’s originally proposed budget. The district was able to reallocate funding for about 30 campus maintenance projects it hopes to complete this year by utilizing more than $11 million left over from the 2017 school bond.  

The new budget does ask for about $7.4 million more in funding for recurring needs than in Hill’s originally proposed budget, which will go toward teacher raises, as well as $4 million to help increase the minimum wage for the district’s lowest-paid employees — bus drivers, janitors, cafeteria workers, etc. — to $20 an hour.   

“Maintaining high-caliber teachers was a theme in the public input sessions held in February and March of this year, and we heard that again in the most recent public input sessions,” BOE Chair Stephanie Sneed said in the press release. “The request includes additional funds to ensure that we are able to recruit and retain the best workforce and that facilities are maintained for the best learning environment of our students. I speak for the BOE when I say our students are worth that investment.”

Increasing teacher pay and incentives

A main goal of the budget is to increase the teacher supplement, which would allow CMS to increase teachers salaries by supplementing their base salary, set by the state, Hill said during Wednesday’s conference. 

Currently, the base teacher salary for beginning teachers in North Carolina is $39,000 per year and a little over $55,000 per year for a teacher with 25 years of experience. Hill pointed out Wednesday that the income needed to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Charlotte is over $61,000 per year.

The approved budget will expand last year’s $6 million toward increasing the local teacher supplement to an additional $7.4 million for this budget cycle.

CMS’s recruitment, retention and talent development team’s strategies to bring and keep teachers at CMS schools include the Teacher Assistant to Teacher program, the Teacher Residency Licensure program, and the implementation of aggressive hiring practices through partnerships with NC Works and recruiting at colleges and universities.

Hill also mentioned tentative strategies to provide teacher housing and reduced rental opportunities, particularly aimed at teachers considering schools that are harder to staff. She promised more to come on this topic prior to mid-July. 

Strategic Plan

CMS’ Strategic Plan represents the district’s roadmap for the next five years and outlines how it will deliver on the goals and stay within the guardrails adopted by the BOE in fall 2023.

Within the Strategic Plan there are four pillars of excellence: academic, people, operational and engagement.

The district’s Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer Beth Thompson summarized the 18 priorities and 70 strategies identified within the four pillars that CMS will implement over the next five years.

Thompson said CMS will commit to educating “the whole child” to world-class standards and providing a comprehensive curriculum (Academic Excellence), training and developing its educators better and faster and recruiting and retaining those educators better (People Excellence), providing safe and clean environments and the best technologies for students to learn (Operational Excellence) and strongly engaging with the community (Engagement Excellence). 

Thompson said when these goals are achieved, CMS will have greater consistency, high-quality core instruction in classrooms, greater student engagement and greater growth in students’ year-over-year foundation skills.

Student outcomes, operational systems, safety

CMS also adopted a district-wide goal to acknowledge the numerous options available to students and ensure they graduate “enrolled, enlisted or employed.” District-wide events such as Road to Hire, Annual Commitment Day, What’s Your E, and Undecided Day provide students with information about opportunities and options post-graduation to achieve the goal.

CMS will also focus on upgrading its current finance and human resource systems through the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Modernization System project to ensure the district’s systems and processes are efficient and effective. 

Other safety initiatives discussed in the conference include the 24Safe campaign, Say Something anonymous report system, and required employee active survival training.

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