Saturday, January 29, 2011

Good isn't enough in CMS crisis

It’s hard to say no to Anniah Grace.

She was the most precious of the three dozen public speakers Tuesday night at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education meeting. Her head barely peeking above the lectern, she pleaded for Bright Beginnings, a threatened pre-kindergarten program from which she graduated.

“I have one dollar to give you,” she said to the board. “It is small, but I will not have dessert tomorrow.”

In her words and in her presence was the reason we develop initiatives like Bright Beginnings – to give as many of these beautiful children as possible a chance to overcome disadvantages they don’t control or understand.

Or, as school board Chairperson Eric Davis asked: “How much do we value our children who are the least prepared and the youngest?”

It’s the question CMS officials and school board members face as they contemplate cutting $10 million from Bright Beginnings, a program that helps more than 3,200 of those 4-year-olds. School board officials, scheduled to vote on the matter Tuesday, instead delayed their decision until Feb. 8 in the face of an outcry from the community.

But CMS officials and board members are clear: There’s no $10 million under the socks in a budgetary drawer somewhere. They’ve known for a while what some of us are still struggling to grasp: Sometimes you can’t afford to care as much as you want.

is no different from than most school systems; we pay significantly more per student in low-income, low-performing schools. Most of us agree that’s a good thing, in principle, because it benefits all of us to give our community’s children a shot at success.

But budgets are a finite thing, and the dollars we add to a struggling school are often dollars that come from another place. So CMS tries to find a sweet spot, both monetary and political, because you can only Robin Hood so much before you start losing the support and the attendance of the people who see their schools getting smaller portions.

In 1998, when Bright Beginnings was born, our schools were financially freer to try programs and see what worked for low-income students. But now that money is tight, we’re having to take a sterner look at those initiatives, and with Bright Beginnings, we’re not entirely sure what we’re getting.

Studies on similar pre-K programs show what common sense tells us, that children like Anniah Grace show better kindergarten readiness and emotional growth than their low-income peers who don’t take pre-K. But other studies show that by the time most of these low-income children reach middle school, the gains they receive from public school pre-K programs seem to be wiped out.

That’s likely true for largely the same reasons the children needed these programs initially – the support from home often wasn’t enough to sustain the early growth.

Which brings us back to the same question: How much do we value the youngest and least prepared? Is it enough to keep a program we don’t know is working long-term – if it comes at the expense of more Anniah Graces in other, proven programs?

Make no mistake about that. Every substantial option that’s left to CMS will come at the expense of children. We’re now at the budgetary precipice – not only in CMS, but in county and state budgets – where the harsh cuts remaining will land hardest on the poor. It’s not good enough to be a good program, as Bright Beginnings surely is.

Maybe, before Feb. 8, someone in the community comes up with the money CMS doesn’t have. But for now, there are no sweet spots – just the sour reality that our money is running out before our hearts are ready.


Anonymous said...

WHAT ever. Cut it or Aniah will not have a teacher in the 1st grade

Anonymous said...

A lot of kids in Bright beginnings ten or more years ago are in jail now. Or should be. The problem is not education but PARENTS who do not care and want to blame others. I believe this attitude is continually supported by the NAACP. These parents do not instill in their kids respect in authority, teachers, police, or anyone else.

wiley coyote said...


Best overall logical even-keeled story of this whole situation yet.

Good read....

Anonymous said...

I am not a supporter of Bright Beginnings simply because I believe CMS cannot afford it.

Regarding the statement that by the third grade any BB gains are wiped out - this is the same statement made for any child who enters K that is advanced. The reason being that they are not challenged thus by 3rd all are on the same page almost by default.

Anonymous said...

PR stunt only and not a state mandated program. Bleeding heart libs always resort to gimmicks and fraud to decieve.

Cut this waste completely and CUT all Kindergarten. Grades 1-12 is plenty. Lower the drop out age to 14. Save billions.

Anonymous said...

..."to give as many of these beautiful children as possible a chance to overcome disadvantages they don’t control or understand."

That can only happen if all of the children are removed from their homes and reared completely by others.

Do we really want to continue down that road?

How many children need pre-pre-K? You know, for those that have not been prepared for pre-K by their parents.

Somday, someone will seriously need to explain how being low-income equates to be being unable to teach the ABCs !!!

Anonymous said...

The middle school years are the ones which historically benefited from corporal punishment. The same kinds of folks who fought to get rid of it in public schools are the ones who now send their kids to private schools.

We continue to make the poor suffer to make illusory points.

Anonymous said...

This may not be accurate, but from my reading the little girl wants to skip dessert and donate her dollar to help fund the Bright Beginnings Program. Here is my gripe and the gripe of many others. How is it that she can afford dessert but can't afford the lunch? How is it she can afford dessert but can't afford pre-school? The point is to sacrifice all optional spending until the mandatory programs are met. That doesn't seem to be the norm these days. It appears that if "I can't afford the program and dessert then others (i.e. taxpayers) should pay for my program so I can still have dessert."

This is not literal so don't think I am interested in depriving a little girl of a piece of cake as the price of admission. It just seems that while taxpayers are paying for the basics; housing, child-care, food, some are still enjoying dessert.

Anonymous said...

"They’ve known for a while what some of us are still struggling to grasp: Sometimes you can’t afford to care as much as you want."

But we DO care! Local government cared enough to give us an uptown basketball arena, a NASCAR museum, a Whitewater Center, a cooking school, a convention center, a convention center hotel, ImaginOn, a totally redone Discovery Place, and we almost got uptown baseball. So yes, the local government really cares, they just care about uptown googaws and they have no sense of priorities. So too bad, now they are cut off and out of luck.

Anonymous said...

We should have listened to Larry Gauvreau when we had the chance.

Anonymous said...

BRIGHT BEGINNINGS: Future Dim. Cuts Iminient.

At Tuesday’s school board meeting, District 2 board member Richard McElrath said there is a zero cost option to Bright Beginnings. He explained why all the CMS budget cuts are being borne, and will continue to be borne, on the backs of the disadvantaged.

Go to to see Richard’s video. Also see the video of Dr. Gorman explaining his position on Bright Beginnings. District 1’s Rhonda Lennon gives a stark warning to folks who are asking the county to continue Bright Beginnings.

For clarification of where the community stands on reaching the $100M in CMS budget cuts, see the CMS Budget Thermometer gauge, which I call the Gauvreau Index.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

The answer is don't have kids you can't afford or don't have the time/money to take care of....simpley said. People(mostly single moms) continue to have babies they can't afford but know they will be kept up by the government. These programs do not work because the children go back to the same homelife. Cut it out and give us tax payers a break.

Anonymous said...

When I lived in GA the lottery paid for all of pre-k. Not one dime came out of my pocket.

Both my kids attended and we were happy with the results. This assisted us with less day care required while both parents worked.

I forgot to mention that I am middle class (the former mid class) and extensively participated with our kids education...wait...wait OUTSIDE the classroom (called home).
The children learned and developed with/without the pre-k.

Again, tks GA for the help with day care !!

Anonymous said...

CMS promised that the children in bright beginnings would be tracked and results documented. They either didn't track the students or they did and are hiding the results. The CMS school system is defined as k-12 and if we can't fund it, how are we supposed to fund an optional program?
Regarding that "most of us" statement, you mean most of us that like to throw money at a problem without providing proof that it works. Fund BB and then cut more from the required areas and see what happens. Tom

Anonymous said...

You are correct, I remember Eric Smith's pitch and it was said that the kids would be tracked. For the poster that mentioned the GA Lottery---it is projected that it will run out of money and have to make changes in its hope scholarship program. Governor Bev Sleazley Black Purdue has already raided our lottery money to cover Medicaid--another program for people who can't pay for services that many of us pay for.

Anonymous said...

The middle/upper income families in Charlotte are willing to bear some burden in giving more than their share of funding to the less privileged children in Charlotte. They have been doing it for decades in Charlotte, without too much protest; because their children were finding success in CMS schools even with spending thousands less per student in their schools. That charity and compassion is bound to end when classes top 45 students in some of these schools, and the middle class becomes disatisfied with their child's education. The bottom line is that middle and upper middle class children also have one shot at a K-12 education, and we cannot fail to make it work for them or our children will fall into poverty. The more people who take their kids out of CMS because the job is not getting done, the fewer of us that have "skin in the game" in CMS. That does not bode well for our city.

Anonymous said...

Can Charlotte, North Carolina, America afford to continue breeding such ignorance as the posters responding to this article! I love are soo miserable!! Just a bunch of HATERS! Ha.. Ha..Ha..

Anonymous said...

Well said, anonymous 12:10. Middle class is also tired of being accused of "not caring about the poor" when there is much evidence to the contrary. Front page headline in Saturday's paper took the cake--"Teacher Cuts to hit CMS's poorest Kids", implying that only the poor are being hit. Funny that the Observer could not find room on the front page for another CMS story a few weeks ago, the one that revealed the disparity in spending among schools--with the high poverty schools receiving much greater funding than suburban schools.

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Anonymous said...

CMS should employ part-time teachers, like in the NC community college system. No benefits or pension, and you'd have educators with experience in the private sector. By the end of this summer, I will have taught 14 college-level courses this academic year, earning far less than a beginning teacher in CMS. I have a masters degree,four years of teaching experience, and would be glad to teach in CMS on a part-time basis. I've taught advanced high school students who were in a program where they earned college credit.

If we can bring high school students into a college setting, it seems we could bring college instructors into public schools. Part-time teachers would provide significant savings, both in salary and benefit expenditures.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:09,
Maybe you could clarify the dropout rate in NC colleges with adjunct or full-time instruction? Is that because of quality instruction? Is it as miserable as the CMS graduation rate? So based on your logic, if it's cheap and it lowers the middle class income level, we'll all be working at Wal-Mart Education and depending on Big Brother for even more healthcare that no one can afford. At least as an adjunct you have less chance of being paid what you're worth.

therestofthestory said...

"This is not literal so don't think I am interested in depriving a little girl of a piece of cake as the price of admission. It just seems that while taxpayers are paying for the basics; housing, child-care, food, some are still enjoying dessert."

Superb translation to the whole welfare state!

Anonymous said...

It's a great program. But it's not K-12 and there's no money. This is a consequence of having our status as a worldwide banking center ranked out from under us. There are consequences to this. This is one casualty. There will be others. What can I say? I wish it were not so.

Anonymous said...

What is happening in CMS, has been happenning in other parts of the country for years and the teachers aren't unionized here. It is time for parents to take responsibility for their kids and if you can't pay taxes, volunteer your time to CMS. The problem is also priorities. Non US students may have to pay tuition to send their kids. Some schools up north have been charging to play in sports for years.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 1:09,

I too have a Masters and it doesn't mean I'd be a good teacher. In fact, nearly every high school teacher I had was better than any college professor I had.

When a college professor is required to teach every student, including those that have no interest in or aptitude for learning, then it'd be a better comparison.

CMS does employ part-time teachers. But I'm not sure they'd benefit from adding a Teach for America do-gooder or a college prof who deals with high-achieving students and has little idea how to deal with the kids with the greatest need for a good teacher.

Anonymous said...

Many college students also have little aptitude or interest in learning; they simply equate college with getting a good job.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina plans next fall to open another high school on a college campus that allows students to earn college credit as they earn a high school diploma.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reports the latest early college high school will open on North Carolina State University’s campus and comes shortly after a study found the schools have higher attendance and lower suspension rates than traditional high schools.

Anonymous said...

What about brain development and all the research that demonstrates the importance of the earliest years. The lines flatten at the 3rd grade level because our public schools are not meeting the needs of the children. They are too busy "leaving no child standing" under the "No Child Left Behind" flag. We have it all wrong---put money and great teachers and resources into the early years and there will be less need for prisons. Why are children always the victims? They did not choose the family they were born into or even what part of town. Perhaps Aniah does not need dessert but every child deserves to have a "sweeter" world and we are not leaving much for them.