Friday, April 15, 2011

Greensboro, CMS differ on teacher pay cut question

As Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools struggle to close an estimated $100 million budget shortfall, everybody's been lobbing suggestions at CMS officials about how they can prevent the planned layoffs of roughly 600 educators. One popular idea has been to give all teachers an across-the-board pay cut rather than laying so many off.

CMS has said that's a non-starter. Under state law, the district argues, cuts to the salaries of certified personnel (e.g., tenured teachers) are regarded as demotions, which would trigger appeal and hearing rights. With some 10,000 teachers and instructional support staff, that could obviously prove cumbersome. Plus, CMS leaders say teachers have had no pay raises for the past three years, and have had to take on extra work. Together, that's a pay cut in itself.

Commissioner Bill James recently pointed out in an e-mail to the newspaper that the Greensboro school system apparently sees the issue a little differently than CMS Superintendent Peter Gorman. Guilford County Schools Superintendent Maurice "Mo" Green, a former Gorman protege, recently submitted his own budget plan to his school board. It does include, as a last option, a pay cut equal to two days salary. It would apply only to employees making at least $35,000. Green's chief of staff, Nora Carr, told me in an e-mail: "Employees will work the same number of days and hours, just receive less pay to do so. We’re trying to save as many jobs as possible for our hard-working employees."

Which, of course, is the exact logic used by folks asking for a pay cut here in Charlotte. So, why is a pay cut a valid option for saving Greensboro teachers' jobs, but invalid for CMS? When I asked Greensboro's attorney, Jill Wilson, about all this, she said a pay cut would indeed be a demotion and a reduction-in-force for career (tenured) and contract employees, and would trigger the same procedures as layoffs. All pretty straight-forward, in her estimation.

I've asked CMS leaders to respond on this issue. I'll post the answer here when I get it. I'll also have some more in-depth questions and answers about Gorman's 2011-12 budget proposal in a story that's slated to run in Sunday's Observer.

Stay tuned...


Wiley Coyote said...

I'm certainly no expert on the CMS budget. I don't have time to do a line item assessment but if current and past history are any indication of how CMS is run, then I firmly believe there is waste in the system that can be eliminated and jobs saved.

I don't believe an across the board pay cut is the right thing to do and eliminate positions only as a last resort.

I keep going back to the Wal Mart analogy.

If Wal Mart can operate the largest retail corporation in the world out of Bentonville, Arkansas, CMS should be able to operate ONE main office instead of all these satellite offices.

Why not use schools being closed down and house them all in one place?

Why not look at outsourcing transportation and the lunch program?

Why not look at the entire system and see how CMS can best make it as stable as possible without having to constantly move kids around. If an area shows continued growth and space is needed (God forbid a new school) then build in a logical manner.

And last but not least, CMS needs to stop listening to special interest groups and cut programs like Bright Beginnings that have no place in CMS and as a last resort, cut all sports.

This srticle talks about how we're going to minimize teacher loss, well, cutting Bright Beginnings and sports seems to me to be at least two LOGICAL ways to save jobs.

Anonymous said...

How many teachers in the Guilford County school system as compared to teachers in the CMS system? I imagine there is quite a difference in numbers, and thus would be quite a difference in number of appeals.

Also, how popular has the pay cut idea really been? I haven't heard teachers clambering for it.

part-time teacher said...

Why not try the community college budget model? Over 50% of NC students will begin their undergraduate careers at community colleges, where as much as 75% of ALL classes are taught by part-time instructors.

I teach at CPCC, 5 classes in the fall, 4 classes in the Spring, and 4 classes in the summer. NC considers teaching 13 college-level courses as part-time. 13 courses a year = $23,725, with no benefits whatsoever. Oh wait, I do get to make $25 in copies per semester.

And by the way, CPCC pays a lot more than most NC community colleges. When I taught at Gaston College, I made less than $1,400 for a semester-long course, and would sometimes have advanced high school students in my classes, even though I don't have secondary certification.

The CMS pay/benefits rate is big money compared to what goes on in higher education.

As far as Wiley's Wal Mart analogy, the community college system is an apt comparison, as both utilize low-paid, part-time associates/adjuncts.

Andy said...

Great comments so far!

Anonymous said...

@Part Time Teacher: Seriously? That is the mentality that you advocate for the education of our community: Treating public school as part-time staff? Well, that sure will encourage anyone with a desire to teach for a career to find a new career. So, instead of raising the bar, you want to lower it.

John Keels said...

Well, either it is no fun. personally, I'd rather take a slight pay cut and keep my job than have to go out in THIS job market and try to find something comparable. A Job that pays the bill is better than a part time job that doesn't. Easy choice or at least it should be. Life is not a bed of roses.

Anonymous said...

Depending on what college book you read, up to 39% of introductory undergraduate courses at UNC-Chapel Hill - North Carolina's flagship university - are taught by graduate teaching assistants (TA's) working towards a master's degree.

So how would a part-time adjunct professor at a community college with a minimum of a master's degree be any less qualified to teach their subject area or be "lowing the bar" at the high school level?

Also, there was a study completed that concluded many women would prefer working part-time vs. full-time so there is a market out there of capable and qualified employees who would jump at the opportunity of being able to work part-time while raising their children.

Now, in some European countries you legally can't penalize a woman for choosing to work part-time as far as future career advancement. Unfortunately, your changes at career advancement in this county are slim to none working part-time.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with John Keels: a full-time job with a small (and it IS small if only two days are being cut) is nominal to the point of barely being noticeable. Compare that to the complete loss of a job and it seems like a no-brainer. Is it fair? Maybe not, but is being laid off fair? Absolutely not. We need to remember that we are in a crisis, and no one is going to fair well in a crisis: Someone (everyone?) is going to lose something. We need to remind ourselves that it is temporary, no matter how painful it may seem at the moment.

jon golden said...

How many people are qualified to teach, willing to teach, and capable to teach (and qualified and capable are exclusive of one another)and then would be willing to do so for no benefits? My question: for those of you who advocate that teachers take a pay cut, how would you react if someone advocated a pay cut in your line of work? Beyond that, teachers are tasked with molding future generations; do you really want someone who isn't fully invested in the process to shape our future? Would you go to a ophthalmologist for lasik because he was the cheapest? Would you trust your eyes to someone who was cut-rate? If not, then why would you trust your child's education to someone who was cut-rate?

Wiley Coyote said...

To Part-time teacher:

I think you missed the crux of my Wal Mart analogy and instead offered one of your own - which I understand why.

The main reason Wal Mart has been successful and able to keep prices low is by taking costs out of the system, primarily through the supply chain. Yes they utilize many part-time workers but the majority of workers are full time.

Wal Mart employs a little over 51,000 people in North Carolina alone and the average full time wage is $12.68 per hour, with a dollar for dollar 401K match.

The average wage in the US for full time employees is $18.80 per hour, per the BLS.

Granted, that's a little over a $6.00 per hour difference, but those 51,000 people have jobs and some benefits.

Anonymous said...

@Part Time Teacher

You're getting used...LOL...I teach in the same place and make much more for less classes. Shop around.

Anonymous said...

Pete's not going to go for the across the board pay cut idea because it isn't HIS idea. I know some teachers who would agree to a temporary reduction in pay if it would prevent lay-offs, but have you noticed how important it is what teachers think?

Anonymous said...

BILL JAMES! Wow what a stand up guy!

Anonymous said...

I have observed that Mr. Gorman likes to fire teachers. That has so far been his first option. He once commented to TV reporters that he would not rehire any of the teachers who were dismissed during the last efforts at meeting a budget, even though some, according to many students and fellow teachers, were excellent teachers. He also commented that, instead, he would hire some good teachers from New York and California.

I believe that some of our school board members have motives that are not beneficial to ALL students, and that until we replace Mr. Gorman, our schools will not recover from its ills. Some of the comments posted here are better than his proposals. He always has a "good" reason why noone else's ideas won't work.

Anonymous said...

Could be that some teachers would be pleased to work part-time. Others might be willing to be furloughed for a couple of days. I have done both. I was furloughed one year when times were tough, and got on an elevator with then Congressman Jim Martin. Congress had just given themselves a pay raise. Never voted for him again.

Anonymous said...

Did you ever look into why an AD only teaches o to 2 classes and head coaches teaching 0 to 2 classes? TWENTY-FIVE hours of planning time? TWO salaries with added supplement for the teaching of ONE job? Someone please try to find answers to this waste!

Anonymous said...


The question is, "is it a demotion or not?"

Dr. Gorman's first appointment when he arrived in 2006 was Mo Green as COO. And it was the Gorman-Green team that cleared out all the problems from the previous administration. Mr. Green's talent is putting his Duke legal degree to work for education.

Now Mr. Green is up in Greensboro. He says he can do what Gorman says he can't. There's no way to place a bet on this. Both men are looking after teachers in their own way.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

So basically, people think its okay for teachers to take a pay cut? Let's see , I'm a first grade teacher and next year I will have a longer day, more kids, and even less assistant time (which is only about 45minutes a day)... Also, a 2 day pay cut leaves me in the same tax bracket, so I'm receiving even less in mt actual pay. After I get pay my bills, I have about 530$ to last a if I get sick or have an emergency I am basically screwed...and I can't forget the money I put into my class...So, it may be selfish...but I have not had a raise in 3 years and everything has gone up...any pay cut is a no go for me!!!

part-time teacher said...

Wiley, thanks for the Wal-Mart information. It's interesting to know that they offer a more equitable workplace than our community colleges.

I've been teaching at CPCC for four years, and there have been full-time openings each year, which I applied for. I never even got an interview. It begs the question:if I'm not good enough to teach there full-time, why am I good enough to teach there part-time?

part-time teacher said...

To Jon Golden:

At most colleges,in introductory courses, your child's education will be entrusted to just the type of employees you describe: low-paid, with no benefits; either part-time adjuncts or graduate assistants. So unless you want to criticize our higher education system, your argument doesn't hold water.

Google 'adjunct exploitation' and you will find that there are thousands of 'people are qualified to teach, willing to teach, and capable to teach,' and they do so for no benefits because they want to use their many years of education in their particular field, rather than taking a job at Wal-Mart.

Anonymous said...

The Greensboro plan is the better one. I have spoken with teachers when CMS budget cuts were just getting rolling full steam and not one objected to taking a pay cut to keep other teachers employed, although there are no doubt those who do. The idea was presented to Dr. Gorman on a CMS FAQs site and his response to it was the same info you state, present state legislation won't allow it.

I find it odd that he made no mention of his willingness to test the water to see if legislators would be willing to work with him on the across the board pay cuts, yet he is now so eager to do so--with Ruth Samuelson--to help ram through his new budget plan.

Of course, the proper way to go about it would be to hold a vote and first let the teachers decide on whether or not they would approve an across-the-board cut. A real vote, whereby you promise the teachers a vote and then actually allow them to do so. In these desperate times my guess is that an extremely high percentage of teachers would go for it, for they know how difficult these cuts make their lives as well as those who are let go. They also know that a large percentage of those cut are very fine teachers.

Dr. Gorman could then begin the process of getting the legislative changes in line to allow this idea at least the chance of working.

Mr. Green I believe is an attorney by profession. I don't think he would blindly propose across-the-board cuts if he thought there was no chance whatsoever that they might succeed.

Anonymous said...

Both Mo Green and Nora Car were top notch professionals. I find it odd to learn from your article that they both are now in the Guilford County system, the same system Dr. Craig Witherspoon, now superintendent of schools for the Birmingham School District passed through upon leaving CMS. The fact that two such highly respected professionals did leave leads me to wonder if the office politics being played by those at the top of the CMS admin system played any factor in their choice to do so.

Anonymous said...

Gorman relies on the faulty or short term memory of this community but I guess he makes sure he confuses issues by using a zillion words to make one point. The only reason that furloughs and pay cuts have not been thoroughly examined for use in this system is that the legislature said he would have to rescind all bonuses first. That would affect his Strategic Staffing and Pay for Performance Initiatives. We can't have that, now can we?

Anonymous said...

Thank you part-time teacher (April 16, 11:27)

I taught for two years as a graduate teaching assistant (TA) at the most expensive university in the county (according to 2010 statistics). I taught introductory college level courses at age 23 and 24 in my subject area at a school that now costs around $58,000 a year to attend before a Metro Pass and some money to consume libations that were once prohibited at a bar named Amendment 21.

I also worked as an an adjunct assistant professor at two universities including Penn State University at University Park and also as a full-time lateral entry state certified teacher after being required to take some of the most ridiculous and irrelevant "Education" courses on the face of the planet as they pertained to my subject area.

I currently substitute teach a one CMS school for a whopping $90.00 per day before taxes because I chose to give up a a full-time career for part-time work while raising my children. I absolutely love teaching at this particular school or, trust me, I certainly wouldn't drive 25 miles out of my way to work here for the pathetic pay I receive.

"Denial" - thinking your college aged student is automatically receiving a significantly better education that you are paying a wad of cash for that often times is taught by someone who isn't licensed to teach K-12 according to some stupid State Dept. of Education guidelines or is (OMG!) working as a part-time adjunct professor.

So, to concur with April 16th;
Jon Golden's argument doesn't hold water or a candle for that matter.

The "disconnect" between college level standards of what constitutes higher education and K-12 State Education Dept. of Education mandates that concluded what does and doesn't make a teacher qualified or effective to teach is mind blowing.

Again, up to 39% of introductory courses (depending on the college book you read) taught at UNC-Chapel Hill are taught by graduate TA's who have yet to earn a master's degree and are not "licensed" to teach. But according to K-12 State Dept. of Education standards, having an advanced degree may not matter at all in the classroom.

Keep in mind, having an advanced degree costs K -12 schools systems more money. So feel free to ponder this thought, "DR". Gorman, or the next "Physician's Assistant" you see for a potentially life threatening medical condition.

Unknown said...

Anonymous -
Let's see , I'm a first grade teacher and next year I will have a longer day, more kids, and even less assistant time (which is only about 45minutes a day)... Also, a 2 day pay cut leaves me in the same tax bracket, so I'm receiving even less in mt actual pay

Suck it up like the rest of the working world!! You still have a job with benefits, this won't be forever. Be glad you will still have a job, even with a paycut!

so TIRED OF HEARING ALL OF THE WHINING! I not only received a paycut, I lost my job as well, it's called downsizing. but maybe that doesn't count, I was downsized in another profession. GET OVER IT!! You will survive....

Unknown said...


adding more to the bottom line for WalMart Inc. everyone knows that benefits suck the life out of any budget............

Anonymous said...

1. Why hasn't anyone suggested a pay cut for Dr. Gorman and other highly paid administrators within CMS?

2. How about a small "education fee" of $25-$50 per year for each student? Instead of taxing everyone more, why not ask those who use the school system to help?

3. Regarding subsidized lunches, why not ask the parents who receive the benefits to work in the schools' kitchens or janitorial services to help repay the system? I realize there's got to be some redtape involved, but there also ought to be some way the schools can utilize some extra non-teaching help.

4. School bus drivers: Why do we have to pay adults to drive the buses? When I was in school (in Greensboro), select high school students drove the buses.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused because I don't support the idea of a teacher with a college degree who has jumped through all the required hoops necessary to receive a teaching license losing a full-time job they need to put a roof over their heads and support a family.

I also don't like the fact that the latest research has suddenly concluded it doesn't mater if a person holds an advanced degree in their subject area or necessarily needs a teaching license to teach K-12 because it may not make them anymore effective in the classroom which completely defies the way universities hire and a promote professors (adjunct, associate and full with lifetime tenure).

I don't like the way universities hire part-time adjunct professors and have TA's teach introductory courses to save money anymore than I like the way TFA takes recent college graduates and throws them into low-performing schools for 2 years at ditch digger pay before they skip town for higher paying careers or a master's degree.

At the same time, there is a market of highly qualified people who would be delighted to teach part-time or half-time in an effort to have a better work/family life balance. Why is this potentially cost saving model (which does not require school systems to provide benefits or health insurance) not being promoted as a viable option? This market includes former highly payed professional retirees, stay-at-home mothers (and in some cases fathers) with college degrees in addition to others who might be in school working towards advanced degrees.

Speaking of Wal-mart, the number of part-time employees who work for the Greater Charlotte YMCA exceeds the number of full-time employees by a large margin. I don't hear part-time employees complaining too much since many are college students, women with college degrees with children at home and retirees who desire flexibility and a better work/life balance than they would find working full-time. The YMCA has no problem firing full-time or part-time employees who are not performing or meeting expectations. And they do this without pay-for-performance standardized testing - just like any other business.

Wiley Coyote said...


I posted facts which can be backed up...

Please post your facts and sources related to Wal Mart having more partime than full time employees...

Anonymous said...

When did working part-time become some politically incorrect concept worthy of debate? A lot of people WANT to work part-time for a variety of reasons. Since when did working part-time, share-time or half- time become a sin? How many people at Walmart are happy working part-time with some scheduling flexibility? Has anyone bothered to ask this question or does our society just assume everyone wants to work full-time?

In some European countries, working part-time still enables employees to collect some benefits and health insurance without sacrificing future promotions should they decide to work full-time in the future. In America, working part-time is the worst of both worlds. You're really not a stay-at-home mom who LOVES being the best soccer snack mommy of the month designing a healthy picnic spread worthy of Martha Stewart for some pudgy 6 year-olds who've played forward, defense and goalie positions on the field for a total of 15 -20 minutes and you're really not a career woman who is given much respect despite whatever credentials, previous experience and degrees you hold. It sucks. Trust me, I know this because this is the life I've been been living (by choice) for almost 2 decades. God did not design me to be home all day - I'd go nuts.

On the other hand, I also feel it's important to be home for my children after school every day while serving as a PTO president and in other school related roles while having some outside work flexibility that pays me for my education, expertise and skills that I worked hard to achieve.

Fortunately, I've been blessed to have had the perfect job to accomplish these goals over the years. My pay couldn't support a family but it's what's worked for me and has made me happy. I realize some mothers want to work full-time, some want to be home full-time and others don't have the option of working part-time.

The idea that Coach Joe thinks it's imperative to maintain a mostly full-time work force run by CMS in the areas of transportation, janitorial work and food services just doesn't make sense to me. Is it the role of education to provide as many full-time jobs to as many adults as possible who receive costly full-time benefits or is the primary objective of education to educate children?