A sign of the changing education landscape: For the first time in 13 budget cycles I've covered, Mecklenburg County commissioners sat down to talk about charter schools.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, which briefed the commissioners, has posted that report online. It includes a lot of interesting items for anyone who cares about the issue, including a map of where Mecklenburg's charter students live, a list of which schools they attend and a demographic comparison between CMS and the students attending Mecklenburg's charter schools.
The presentation got me thinking about the way I've always reported on county funding as an allocation for CMS. There's good reason for that. The superintendent, top administrators and school board spend weeks crafting a request, which commissioners scrutinize and vote on. While everyone knows that there's a pass-through to charters, it's CMS that gets the scrutiny, praise and heat.
Given the work that CMS puts into getting that allocation, it's easy to understand why officials and supporters might resent about being forced to give up some of their money -- especially when that pass-along is expected to top $30 million next year.
But if you look at is as the county's allocation for public education, it makes more sense. If CMS projections materialize, about 157,000 Mecklenburg students will enroll in public schools next year. CMS will get about 91 percent of them, and 91 percent of the county money. The charters that serve the other 9 percent will divvy up that portion.
The big question is whether that's a smart way to spend local money. CMS board member Eric Davis took issue with my recent post critiquing his comparison of CMS and charter spending projections. I said it was a false premise to assume that the per-pupil share passed along to charters meant anything about the actual cost of operating those charters. Davis said I missed his point: