For over a decade, there has been a relentless battle over education in the Queen City. Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools are once again surrounded by a public perception crisis. According to the Charlotte Observer, Hugh Hattabaugh is serving as interim superintendent for a year, and the school board plans to select a new leader for the system next spring.
In addition to lacking strong leadership, the school district also faces more budget cuts amid already tight budget constraints. According to the CMS website, CMS receives funding from the county, state and federal government. The budget is determined by The Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners, state representatives and the United States Congress. With state and local tax revenues declining, the state and county have reduced CMS funding and the district has had to cut about $150 million from its operating budget from the past two years. CMS and the Board must balance the reality of shrinking funds with the district goal of continued academic achievement for all students.
With CMS slowly inching towards severe overcrowding, in combination with the lack of available options to alleviate budget woes, Mayor Anthony Foxx’s self-appointed role as a proponent for our school district may raise a few eyebrows. In truth, Mayor Foxx does not have any authority over our public school system, however, given the amount of time he has spent discussing the issue, Charlotte residents have been led to believe otherwise. Over the last two years, Mayor Foxx has spoken passionately (on a number of occasions,) about the importance of our public schools. And yet, very little has improved.
By and large, CMS is painted by a rather wide brush. There are many exceptional schools within the district; however they are often overshadowed by the district’s low performing schools. In addition, more than half of CMS students enrolled last year were economically disadvantaged. In a city where ten percent of the population is living below the poverty line, the disparity in our school district is severely imbalanced. The unfortunate reality is that many area residents have absolutely no confidence in our city schools, and have opted to send their children to private schools. And where does Mayor Foxx stand on this issue?
While Mayor Foxx highlights the positive aspects of CMS publicly, it appears as though he doesn’t wholeheartedly believe what he so strongly advocates about the system. Mayor Foxx can be added to the list of those who have thrown in the towel, as he too sends his children to private school — with annual tuition set at around $37,000. It’s unclear if Mayor Foxx receives a discount on tuition or if his children qualify for the Leon Levine Endowed Scholarship Fund (1990.)
Ultimately, the involvement of local parents could put CMS back on the right track, but instead, these parents are removing their children from the CMS district — leaving the public school system in the dust. At the end of the day, the fact that Mayor Foxx won’t send his own children to CMS speaks for itself. In a recent interview with Charlotte Magazine, Mayor Foxx proclaimed that he is “for the children – all of them.” While that certainly seems like a noble approach, is Mayor Foxx really concerned about the well-being of CMS and the children who attend, or is it just a ploy to persuade our citizens that consolidating city and county government would be for the best?
Preliminary studies have already indicated that a city/county merger would not save enough money to justify consolidation. However, Mayor Foxx remains adamant about pushing for the consolidation if he is re-elected. The city of Charlotte needs a mayor who can serve as a voice for our citizens and who can also offer viable solutions to our city’s issues. Our city cannot withstand inaction for another two years. Election day is November 8th, 2011. Our citizens have the power to elect a new Mayor. Please vote.