Meck Co. Commission & CMS Board Head to Mediation Over Funding Dispute

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The funding dispute between the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board and Mecklenburg County Commissioners is now heading to mediation.

The two sides couldn’t work things out during a joint meeting held Monday.

“Putting kids first is how we’re going to get past it,” says CMS teacher and parent Amanda Thompson.

Thompson and other teachers held signs and watched as County Commissioners and the School Board hashed out their differences.

“It breaks my heart to say that your actions have increased the division between us,” Elise Dashew told Commissioners during the meeting.

The School Board is challenging the Commission’s decision to withhold $56 million from the district’s budget.

“Only thing I’ve heard about is money, money, money, not about the well being of our children that we need to educate,” said Commissioner Vilma Leake, during the meeting.

School Board members say the county isn’t meeting its requirement to provide sufficient funding, arguing jobs could be cut if the money doesn’t come through.

“We cannot underfund education and expect equity to occur,” Thompson says.

But county leaders argue they’re already providing far more money to the district than what’s required.

“Equity has nothing to do with how big the pie is. But it has every bit to do with how you distribute the pie,” said County Commission Chair George Dunlap, during the meeting.

County Manager Dina Diorio said county funding to CMS has increased 48 percent since 2015, even as enrollment in the district has dropped.

“I think we’re doing an enormous amount, and we have always done that,” says County Commissioner Pat Cotham.

Like other commissioners, Cotham wants to see specifics about how the district will improve outcomes, before releasing the money.

“We have to make hard decisions for the people. And sometimes they’re not popular,” Cotham says.

Both sides are hoping mediation brings some solution.

“I think putting egos aside and putting kids first is going to move us towards mediation and truly collaborating for our kids,” Thompson says.

The date of the mediation has not been set.

It will be held in private.

The boards named former Charlotte City Attorney Mac McCarley as their mediator.

If that doesn’t work out, they’ll turn to a scoring rubric to determine if CMS gets the money.