CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46) — The root of the budget battle between the Charlotte Mecklenburg School Board and Mecklenburg County centered around failing schools and reducing the large racial achievement gap within CMS.
FOX 46 took a deep dive into the data and spoke with parents and community members regarding how they really feel about CMS and its low-performing schools.
“Education, to me, is their only chance to a better place in life,” said Danielle, a CMS Mom who wants to remain anonymous.
Danielle still has kids in CMS schools and wanted to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation when discussing such a hot topic issue. But she felt the need to speak up for her kids, and thousands of others who she says CMS is failing.
“I had many arguments with the teachers and the principal about what’s going on, even the guidance counselor, I’m like, ‘can you help my daughter with college like she needs to start looking at college to get prepared’. I got nowhere with him,” Danielle explained.
Statewide statistics back up Danielle’s experience. 64% of African American CMS students tested below the minimum requirement for college readiness, 84% of white students tested above the minimum.
“When you’re given the silver spoon, and you’re privileged enough to, you know, go to better schools. Of course, you’re going to say, oh, everything’s okay over here,” Danielle said.
Some CMS Board members claim the low-performing schools and failing students are just a product of their environment, and blame the poverty level.
“The teachers that are doing amazing work don’t even know who’s going to show up every day. And then when these kids arrive at the classroom, they put their heads on a desk and they go to sleep. And you know why? Because they’re tired, because they slept in a car last night,” Rhonda Cheek, CMS Board of Education Member, said.
But Jordan Boyd, with the African American Faith Alliance for Educational Advancement, doesn’t agree.
“That doesn’t mean they can’t learn, doesn’t mean they can’t catch up. It means you got to do a little more to help them get there,” Boyd said.
About 25% of CMS schools are failing. 70% of black or brown children in grade three are not at reading level, which didn’t come as a surprise to Danielle.
“I recall going to a school and it was just chaotic. The teacher had no control. I believe that statistic. I really do,” Danielle said.
“If 70% of young white children in this county were failing. Do you think the response would be what it is?” Boyd asked.
Passionate discussions about the District’s track record came to a head when Mecklenburg County restricted $56 million from CMS leadership until they came up with a plan to make a change.
“CMS doesn’t have a funding problem. They have a leadership problem,” George Dunlap, Chairman of the Board of Mecklenburg County Commissioners, said.
One former CMS employee, Brian Kasher, says it’s about time CMS was held accountable.
“To me it’s criminal. It’s criminal. Right. Personally, when I hear that, my thought is there should be nothing discussed at the CMS board meetings, except what’s required by state statute, and what they’re going to do to turn the performance of our children around, what are they going to do?” Kasher said.
Kasher worked for CMS for eight years as an environmental safety officer. He says CMS needs more transparency.
“If they can say with their brute force power, there is no problem. There is no problem,” Kasher said.
To resolve the budget battle between CMS and Mecklenburg County, the District agreed to bring in an outside consultant to help guide the student outcomes-focused governance model. The District also promised to improve the ability of parents and the public to track school performance.
“We believe that by taking that systemic approach, and not individualizing, each component of those pieces that I just mentioned, that we’ll be able to see a quick turnaround in many of those schools across our district,” said Dr. Matt Hayes, CMS Deputy Superintendent for Academics.
But at this point, Danielle says she still has regrets.
“Had I known the education system was like this here, I would not have moved when I did, I would have stayed where I was where my kids could get a quality education.”