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Gorman: Teacher cuts were unavoidable

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Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Peter Gorman today defended the district’s cost-cutting moves, including his decision to lay off hundreds of teachers.

Speaking at the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum in west Charlotte, Gorman said critics are misguided when they insist that teacher layoffs were avoidable.

Roughly 85 percent of the district’s $1.1 billion budget goes to salaries and benefits, he said, and 86 percent is directly related to schools.

“They’re not telling you accurate information,” he said of his critics. “I think it’s time we stand up and say the information just isn’t accurate.”

Gorman, now in his third year at CMS, has come under sharp criticism in some parts of the African American community. Some say he failed to cut deeply into his own  administrative staff before resorting to teacher layoffs.

At a community forum Monday evening at C.N. Jenkins Memorial Presbyterian Church, speakers strategized about ways to galvanize community anger around teacher layoffs.

So far, CMS has refused to release specific demographic information about the teachers let go, such as race and gender. Gorman said Tuesday that the district had complied with all laws concerning diversity.

Of the $100 million in CMS cuts, he said, the first $51 million was accomplished with no impact on classrooms.

In addition to teacher cuts, he said, the district also has eliminated 11,000 bus stops (from 37,000 to 26,000), eliminated 2 million miles driven and slashed utility costs.

“Our schools will be hotter in the fall and summer and colder in the winter,” he told the group, which included several city council and school board members, as well as candidates running for those government bodies.

With 20 million square feet of space, he said, CMS currently employs the same number of maintenance workers it had when the district oversaw just 8 million square feet.

“We’ve gone about as far as we can go and still provide the service,” he said.

Gorman said teacher layoffs might have been avoided had Mecklenburg County not slashed its share of school funding, on top of state funding cuts. But at a time when all county functions were being cut, she said, CMS could not reasonably argue for an exception.

“I think you have to time your outrage and when you do your jumping up and down and such,” he said.

Gorman said he looks forward to a time when he can get back to being the district’s “chief educator” and not its “chief businessman.”

“I’ve done nothing relating to reading, writing and arithmetic over the last months,” he said. “I’ve done budgets…. But that’s what the times call for.”

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October 8, 2015
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