School leaders desperate for state budget resolution

by: Paige Hansen Updated:


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Charlotte Mecklenburg Superintendent Heath Morrison addressed what would happen if state lawmakers don't agree on a budget deal.
"I think if there is no budget, we operate under the budget that we have this year," Morrison said.
He added the district would not have to make cuts to transportation or teacher assistants as proposed in some plans but teachers and school staffers would go another year without a pay raise.
"I don't think the average citizen can fathom how stretched and strained our public school system is," school board member Eric Davis said at Tuesday's Board of Education meeting. 
Some board members expressed frustration as the district's associate general counsel, Jonathan Sink, went over numbers that are still just possibilities.
"I don't think it's any news to anybody here that there has not been a compromise between our state House and state Senate," Sink said.
The Senate wants to raise teacher pay by 8 percent and cut teacher assistant positions to help pay for raises. 
CMS said Tuesday if that plan took effect, the district would have to cut 427 teachers’ assistant positions district-wide.
The House wants a 6 percent raise with no cuts to teacher assistant positions.
In Charlotte Tuesday, Gov. Pat McCrory told Eyewitness News he stands by an earlier statement that the state cannot afford more than a 6 percent raise. 
McCrory also said he presented a plan to senators Tuesday to try to come up with a compromise which would include allowing local governments decide how money allocated for teacher assistant positions is spent.
He described it as a, "...plan which I believe does not cut Medicaid, gives flexibility to local governments on how best they want to use their money for teacher assistants, or other matters that they may have higher priority and it also doesn't cut core government services."
The governor said he wants a long-term solution and has relied on superintendents like CMS' Morrison to help develop his education priorities.
At tonight's Board of Education meeting, Morrison said the current issue is not only about pay raises, but about overall spending on education.
"We are 48th in teacher salary as a state because we are 46th or 47th in the amount of money spent on education," Morrison said. "To try to fund the teacher salaries through the funding that's already one of the lowest in the country for education does not make the situation better."
The board said there was a time in the past when lawmakers didn't decide on a budget until October. But, CMS leaders who have met with lawmakers in Raleigh as recently as last week said they thought a deal could be reached in the next two weeks.