Wednesday, November 23, 2011

CMS slipping on per-pupil money

North Carolina's 2011 school report cards show Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has been losing ground on per-pupil spending compared with other N.C. districts , including its largest ones.

In 2006-07,  with the economy thriving,  CMS spent $8,118 per pupil,  $95 above the state average.  Last year it spent $7,994,  about $400 below the state average.  The state tally includes local,  state and federal money to operate schools;  it doesn't count construction and other capital costs  (read details here).

CMS relies heavily on county taxpayers.  In 2006-07,  CMS'  local money came to $2,517 per pupil,  $568 above the state average.  That put CMS ahead of Wake,  Cumberland and Forsyth  (Guilford County,  the state's third-largest district after Wake and CMS,  has consistently had higher per-pupil budgets than any of the five biggest districts.)

Last year CMS was down to $2,048 per student in local money  --  $146 over the state average,  but less than Guilford, Wake and Forsyth got.  As anyone who has followed budget news knows,  CMS took a big hit in county spending when the recession took hold.  This year  (which is not reflected in state report cards)  Mecklenburg County commissioners approved a $26 million increase.

The link between spending and student achievement remains murky.  Guilford,  despite its consistently large budget  ($8,820 in federal, state and local money last year)  trailed CMS,  Wake and state averages on high school test scores.

CMS saw its pass rates slip in 2011,  but the report cards show it held onto a respectable position compared to other districts,  especially at the high school level.  For instance,  the pass rate for CMS black and low-income high school students slipped from 77 percent in 2010 to 73 percent in 2011,  but that compares with a 68 percent pass rate for the same groups in Wake and 63 percent in Guilford.  Well over 90 percent of white and non-poor students in CMS and Wake passed the high school tests.

But one big conundrum remains.  While CMS has made big strides in helping teens pass their state exams,  it continues to trail most districts on getting them to graduate.


Anonymous said...

As our mayor stated, the Chinese spend way less and attend "sub-standard" schools, yet have great results. So the money is not everything

Anonymous said...

Guess what... as long as Democrats rule in Mecklenburg County, the people who actually pay taxes will keep moving their families outside of the county. Unless they can afford a private school for the kids, like the mayor does. The amount per pupil will only keep dropping.

Anonymous said...

We spend WAY more per pupil on students in inner-city high minority schools as compared to less minority schools in our suburbs - and we have worse performance by the students that receive the most money. Worse academic performance and worse violence in those schools, so let's throw more money down a hole.

Wiley Coyote said...

...And to hear CMS, the BOE and BOCC tell it, Bright Beginnings is a success!...

...makes you wonder what $11 million the County threw into that black hole plus the other $11 +/- million from other sources would do if it was focused on K-5.

Ann, I wonder how many schools were getting Title I funds prior to the school closings versus those remaining today.

It only stands to reason that the formulas used to calculate the funds might be skewed due to fewer schools housing more low income students than having them spread out?

I believe Title I funds start at 35% or 40% FRL so if the schools that absorbed other low income students, do those funds follow the students or drop off because their new school still meets Title I funding?

Anonymous said...

As a CMS teacher, I can assure you that throwing money, large or small, at the classroom problem of low teacher morale and high student/parent apathy will not correct the problem. It really does not matter how much money you give me or supply for my classroom if every day I have to deal with students who have been improperly promoted thanks to NCLB and handed every little thing they want or need thanks to government-supported enabling. I believe the statistics from Guilford County support my statement. You can lure a horse to water with free handouts, but you cannot teach him to drink if he didn't learn that basic life skill from his mama.

Anonymous said...

There are any number of studies in this country and abroad that show per-pupil spending has nothing whatsoever to do with achievement. We could easily cut the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school budget in half, and, with involved parents and a get-tough approach in the classroom, improve results.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Wiley, my understanding is that districts can decide how low to set the cutoff for designating schools for Title I money (there may be a bottom limit, like the 35-40 percent you cite), but the feds require TI money to go to any school that cracks 75 percent. CMS is unique in NC in having so many at 75+ that it doesn't put TI money into schools with lower percentages. The money does not follow the students.

Wiley Coyote said...

The basic principles of Title 1 state that schools with large concentrations of low-income students will receive supplemental funds to assist in meeting student’s educational goals. Low-income students are determined by the number of students enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program. For an entire school to qualify for Title 1 funds, at least 40% of students must enroll in the free and reduced lunch program.

There are school districts in this country that bump up their FRL numbers to ensure they keep getting those Title I funds.

In my previous post above I wondered if we actually lost Title I funds due to those closing and if the funds don't follow the students, could it be there are more students within the new schools they moved to sharing the same amount of funds that school had last year.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we should send some CMS educrats on a "junket" to China to see what their "substandard" schools are doing right.

I'll bet it has a lot to do with the teachers, parents, and students.

And not a lot to do with how much they spend on computers and "smart" boards.

Having taught a year in China several years ago, I know the real difference, but others need to learn the hard way.

They wouldn't listen to me...

Wiley Coyote said...


I've said all along it boils down to midset - what is acceptable and what is not.

Eliminate the excuses.

I think your perspective is spot on but it will take a national movement in this country to change the current mindset and approach that has been in place for 40 years.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the CMS teacher who posted - but add, the article is very disinegenuous - the figure quoted is not per pupil spending - it is the average - the spending on "some students" is double what it is on others. With no change in outcome.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Baixiong, I remember when Frances Haithcock (then the interim superintendent) and various other local educators visited China several years ago. She was quite impressed with their education system, but said China does not attempt to educate all children. She described a culture in which urban professionals were extremely focused on education and had great resources available, while the country/peasant kids had only minimal schooling. Does that jibe with what you experienced?

Anonymous said...

Most of my experience was in an "urban" setting, in three provincial capitals in NE China, with a private language school.

But, in China, a private school is nothing special because almost all parents send their kids somewhere for afterschool tutoring in all kinds of subjects.

In one city I actually taught briefly at a local middle school.

Not the elite, but solid middle class.

Let me tell you the smell around the bathrooms alone was enough to scream "substandard" in the US, but it was a solid school academically.

It looked like a typical 1950's era US school in many ways. No AC, no fancy technology, etc.,etc.

Classrooms had at least 60 kids, though, making it difficult for me to connect to the kids.

But the kids were eager to learn if somewhat shy in class (English).

The private school setting had around a dozen kids per class, and they worked hard. Some were simply amazing.

In China, the wealthier, better educated people tend to live in cities, while the countryside is a different matter.

I did not teach in the countryside at all.

But there are still plenty of poor people in the cities. Poor by our standards for certain.

But the poor seemed to work the hardest because they had the most to gain.

And the worst thing that could happen to a kid is to tell their parent they had misbehaved in class.

The parents let their kids know how much they sacrificed for them and the kids just couldn't stand to shame them by misbehaving.

I learned a lot about the kids lives from just talking with them and I realized that they have hard lives, studying all day long and into the evenings and weekends.

If anything, they are overworked.

Again, I didn't see anything miraculous other than hard work and parents who were 100% behind their education and a culture that supported both.

Anonymous said...


While the "professionals" definitely have access to greater resources (especially in places like Beijing and Shanghai), the desire for education goes down into the lower classes as well.

Parents will sacrifice a lot of their own luxuries (such as having an automobile or motorcycle) just to send their kids to private tutors.

You see a lot of parents driving their kids to private schools on the backs of bicycles, if that gives you any idea.

Of course, some arrive in luxury automobiles,too, to the same private schools, but that's just China.

Another thing to look at in China is their big test to get into college, called the gaokao.

There are regional differences in the difficulty of the test, but some sources I've read actually say the ones in the less urban areas are harder because the kids from those areas study more.

But I'm sure they have some who are just too poor to break out.

Garth Vader said...

Here's a graph of inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending, staff-to-student ratio, and math/science/reading scores.

As you can see, the outrageous increases in expenditures and staff have produced NO increase in student achievement.

If your mind is so facile as to think that "more money = better results" then maybe the Observer needs an education reporter who has a few more functioning synapses.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to keep adding on (wish I could edit...).

Another thing that I truly believe is that if anyone OFFERED educational opportunities to the poor in China, they would definitely take full advantage of them.

therestofthestory said...

Ann I looked at the data a few weeks ago when they posted the pass rates and all. For the first time in a while with all other factors held the same (like not a new test) the scores for the CMS white students went down thus causing much pride in the CMS ivory tower for closing the achievement gap.

Additionally, until CMS releases the schoolhouse level per pupil spending, you really do not get a good idea if per pupil spending makes any difference.

On the surface, it appears the waterhose we are pointing at the inner city kids get swallowed once a day. Clearly we are well beyond the point of diminishing returns with them. And with the suburban schools having been held back to $4k to $5k per year al lthese many years, the results of that strategy are finally showing up.

It has been postulated from the cause and effect, that teh most successful strategy to close the achievement gap is to cullout the highest white students.

And the earlier poster is correct in that spendign for public education in the US has essentially tripled per student since 1980 or so, no scores have improved.

Bernanke believes the wealth gap in this country is due to the education gap. And he does not solely mean college degree but also type of degree and extra training/certification many professions now acknowledge.

Also with Title 1, the feds do target that money to schools over 40% but CMS sweeps it all up and funnels it solely to the 75% schools.

therestofthestory said...

BTW, this is the first year (2011-2012) CMS has not gotten a budget increase. So the decrease comes from 2 areas, budget growth not keeping up with student growth and overhead taking more money away from the schoolhouse level.

Wiley Coyote said...


So what is the $26 million CMS got from the County?

The budget increases CMS' operating budget by $26 million, which district officials said is enough to bring back 400 teachers and some support positions where employees could have been laid off.

Children as Commodity said...

CMS is saving money by having younger children stay in school one hour longer per day, away from their parents. This is equivalent to younger children staying an extra 160-180 hours per school year away from their parents.

What is the dollar value per hour CMS is taking as savings on the back of family together time? CMS should not be making a commodity of our children or their time!

CMS is a mid-manager spin machine with corporate spin cycles abundant.

Anonymous said...

Wow, 160 hours is 4 fulltime working weeks per school year.

How can CMS point the finger at families not being involved, when CMS's own policy takes away from family time to generate budget dollars. Is there no accountability?

Anonymous said...

CMS has MORE than enough funds to operate and high student expenditures in all schools, however they have chosen to spend the money in ways that do not improve student achievement; programs that are not research based, ILLEGAL immigrants creating anchor babies, and expensive superintendents certainly do not aid in increasing per pupil expenditures.

Ann Doss Helms said...

TROTS, I know you (and others) delved into these numbers quicker than I did. But where are you getting that white results went down? I'm seeing that white pass rates on EOGs and EOCs changed by less than half a percentage point from 2010 to 2011, hardly a real decline. Ditto for "NED," or paid-lunch, students. I think these groups have virtually topped out, which does make it somewhat easier to narrow the gap as long as minority and low-income kids make progress. But I've never heard CMS celebrate based on the top group dropping. It was pretty much part of Peter Gorman's standard remarks to say that closing the gap is only meaningful if it brings the lower groups up, not the higher groups down.

And yes, totally agree with those saying these per-pupil numbers are a districtwide calculation, not school-by-school (the actual spending on individual students would vary even more).

BolynMcClung said...


Gorman was famously against including the results of retesting. That position put him at odds with the staff and all the other large school districts.

When I attended Harding's meeting with the parents last week, one of the staff gave a reminder to all of the students of the multiple ways they could improve a poor grade. She was talking about retesting.

I don't like the retesting thing but at least permission to take the retest was tied to several well thought-out conditions being met. That's some progress and shows that teachers still know the power of their position.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

Money doesn't matter if education is not valued.

Anonymous said...

I have several Chinese students who go to Chinese HS AFTER going to school ALL day... more than one has said that if they went to China (they were born here with Chinese parents) they would be far behind their peers--and these are some of the top performing kids...more than one is taking the SAT on 12/3 to be eligible to apply to the NC School of Science and Math... I think it is sad how much we are expected to cater to the kids who couldn't give a rats patookis... We don't do special paperwork about how we are challenging the top, but we have to do LOADS of CYA paperwork and folders and all kinds of stuff to track the failing kids...and most of those kids have enabling or no parents, the kids don't care--they are biding their time until they are 16--or they stay up all night playing video games and come to school to sleep... just CRAZY stuff... stuff that my mom would have busted my butt for...that's for sure. You know, "Tiger Mom" got some frowns from American parents when her book was released, but really... as soon as people get over the idea of being their kids friend---or as George Carlin put it--"Having a kid fetish"--we'd probably see some real changes...

therestofthestory said...

Ann, if you call that hardly a real decline then you have to classify improvement numbers by blacks, etc. as the same. The interesting thing is look at that same comparison for Wake County. And I do not believe in topping out. That is simply the effect of strangling suburban schools with limited opportunities like closing DAvidson IB and shutting down Crestdale honors programs. Also an ES school in North Meck shut down an advanced program last year.

I have a spreadsheet complete with graphs tracking all of this since the NC ABC testing started. I see I do need to add Guilford County maybe. Obviously I have the state, Wake and CMS broken out by ED, NED, white and black. Of course this is a far cry from when I first came here where you were either black or non-black as far as the schools were concerned. Ann I would be glad to email you this spreadsheet but I am sure your security would not let it through. And too I'd have to ask you to keep my identity to yourself for now if I have not scrubbed all of that successfully from it.

WC, yes BOCC added the $26 million above what Gorman had proposed but that did not get CMS back to even from the previous year. And we all know the state ended up kicking in much more money than Gov Bev scared the Democrat politicans into believing they would be shorted.

You do know there is a move afoot to increase school time for the inner city kids to something around 8 to 5 give or take 30 minutes either way such that the schools would then feed the kids 3 meals a day. As well as adding more school days into the summer. Those of you who know elementary teachers know what an issue a longer day has been this year. Billingsley tried it a couple of years ago and almost did in the staff.

Anonymous said...

Bolyn, what these CMS spokespeople say in meetings to parents and the public is not always (well rarely) in line with what is executed when the time comes. A momma comes hollering into the office and they do whatever she demands.

Ann Doss Helms said...

TROTS, white pass rates on EOGs went from 88.4 percent in 2010 to 88.2 in 2011; on EOCs they went from 94.3 percent to 94.2. The reverse would absolutely apply; I'd never report it as a significant gain. I tend to describe very small fluctuations as "virtually flat" or "unchanged." I can't imagine even the most spin-driven official getting worked up over an uptick of 0.1 or 0.2 percentage point.

I think I've got most of the same data (and as you noted, meaningful year-to-year tracking is tough because there are so many changes in testing). But you can try to send the spreadsheet; we've made changes in email so big attachments no longer shut down my inbox (hooray!). I would not disclose your identity, if I could figure it out.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if less time was spent on PC issues and this history month and that history month and more time was spent on repetition of the basics, we might catch up to the Chinesse.

Anonymous said...

6:39, How much is LaTarzja's per guest spending for the Broad Celebration? I've yet to hear what that will amount to and whether title 1 guests will have larger and more expensive portions.

Anonymous said...

Looks like CMS is using South Mecklenburg's outdoor classroom environmental lab for this week's diversion. Got to give it to South Mecklenburg though. Where CMS has not supported innovation, the business community has!

therestofthestory said...

Ann, when 25% of your achievement gap closing is from the white students' scores going down, CMS still celebrates like it's New Years.

Once the per pupil schoolhouse level spreadsheet comes out, it may be time to contact the Civil Rights office. With the re-election looking dismal, they may pull out some stops we'd be surprised by.

Wiley Coyote said...

The "achievement gap" is as elusive as Sasquatch.

The White student population within CMS continues to dwindle yet Whites still score very high on tests.

I would think after 40 years we wouldn't be talking about this but based on the last reports of 3 - 8 testing, we have another 15 years to go before that "gap" is eliminated - if then.

And what then if that does happen?

Do we stop this ridiculous per pupil spending facade and then spend the exact same on all students?

I put my money on the current never ending cycle of status quo....

therestofthestory said...

I was on the ncreportcard sit and found this interesting arrangement of data. This is just a clip from the screen that includes CMS. The formating probably will not work but here goes.

Here is the link I am at.

LEA Local Education Agency Name,
State PPE,
State Rank,
Federal PPE,
Federal Rank,
Local PPE,
Local Rank,
Total PPE,
Total Rank

2010 330 Edgecombe County Schools 5,873.80 40 1,680.21 36 916.07 113 8,470.08 76
2010 310 Duplin County Schools 5,692.94 53 1,669.85 37 1,055.52 111 8,418.31 77
2010 150 Camden County Schools 6,498.07 25 743.97 114 1,164.82 102 8,406.86 78
2010 840 Stanly County Schools 5,664.47 55 1,265.41 79 1,451.60 80 8,381.48 79
2010 110 Buncombe County Schools 5,173.02 88 1,164.69 95 2,017.98 29 8,355.69 80
2010 800 Rowan-Salisbury County Schools 5,122.45 93 1,171.14 93 2,045.60 28 8,339.19 81
2010 740 Pitt County Schools 5,175.43 86 1,395.58 62 1,723.91 49 8,294.92 82
2010 860 Surry County Schools 5,566.46 60 1,349.96 69 1,348.86 93 8,265.28 83
2010 600 Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Schools 4,868.44 107 1,228.46 85 2,163.90 22 8,260.80 84
The first 10 items are the column headings. As you see for CMS, the state's contribution to our public schools is ranked 107 out of 115 LEA's, i.e. school systems. Why is it that low? That then leaves CMS with a total rank in NC at 84. The federal dollars had increased about 50% over the previous year. Our local dollars are ranked 22. Pretty good considering the limited wealth here.

Anonymous said...

Cant wait for the Broad Celebration party. The suburb schools will get half a plate and the westside schools will get a plate and a half.What a fiasco.How much does Latarja get for planning the party.What a waste of money and human capital.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:50.

I know what you mean.

A lot of Chinese immigrants are VERY concerned that their children are getting a worse education in the US than they would have in China.

My wife is from China and we also send our kids to Chinese school after school, primarily to learn Mandarin but also to experience Chinese-style instruction.

We also keep in touch with other relatives and know how far along they are in their academic subjects compared to the US "standard".

We are especially concerned about the lack of focus on mathematics in the US.

Most Chinese kids are a few years ahead of those in the US.

Our own son is about 2-3 years ahead of his peers due to our tutoring alone.

Such is the sad state of education in the US.

Thankfully, we can probably fill in the gaps while he is in elementary and middle school, but after that?

Who knows for sure.