Church leaders agree with county plan to withhold CMS funds

Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 6:02 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - What’s the best way of getting failing students back on track?

There’s a fight over that right now.

Mecklenburg County wants to withhold $56 million from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools until it comes up with a plan to close the gap. But CMS says it needs that money to do the job.

This morning, some local faith leaders announced they are siding with the county on withholding money.

They spoke out on Monday morning at a press conference saying the achievement gap impacts students of color most.

The church leaders which are part of the African-American Faith Alliance for Educational Advancement say CMS isn’t preparing black students for success after school.

That’s why they’re calling for more accountability within CMS leadership to make changes now that will affect these students’ futures.

“Forty-two schools in Mecklenburg County are failing schools and that’s where black children go to school. And that’s not how it should be,” said Mecklenburg County Commissioner Vilma Leake.

This group, made of pastors and community leaders, says CMS is failing kids.

“Seventy percent of African American grade 3 students are performing below-end of grade-level reading assessments,” said Reverend Monte Witherspoon. “The majority of students who graduate from CMS are not prepared for college or career success.”

That’s why these groups support the county manager’s proposal of withholding $56 million dollars from CMS until they come up with a plan to improve educational opportunities for all students.

“All children can learn regardless of race, class, or social-economic status. That means poor kids can learn. If they are met with high expectations in the classroom,” said Rev. Witherspoon.

But not everyone agrees with the suggestion.

Deirdre and Jonna Austin were also at the press conference on Monday but in opposition. Their mom is a third-grade teacher in CMS.

“The school system is doing what they can. The teachers are teaching to the best of their abilities. We know that NC is one of the lowest states in education funding so to continue to cut that funding? I believe you put your money where your values are,” said Deirdre Austin.

The county says the decision would not have an impact on classrooms or teachers but for some, the idea of cutting the budget isn’t right.

“If we’re not willing to invest, if we’re not willing to stand in the gap, with the teachers who are doing their best, when the board if doing their best, what are we really doing,” Austin said.

WBTV News contacted CMS several times on Monday requesting a statement but we did not receive one. We will update this article when they do respond.

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