Nashville's Charters Cost $8 Million Less Than Expected
by Aundrea Cline-Thomas
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Metro's financial outlook is not as bleak as once predicted. Last fall, charter school growth was blamed for putting Metro Schools in the red. New calculations have changed that.
"Fifteen of the twenty-three schools on that list are experiencing slower than expected growth," Metro Nashville School Board Budget and Finance Chairman Will Pinkston said.
The cost of charter school growth has caused tension in Metro Schools for months. In August parents rallied in support of continuing expansion. By September, the school board was discussing how expansion costs too much.
Charters receive $9,200 from the district for every student enrolled. In the fall, Pinkston said enrollment projections would greatly contribute to a possible $23 million budget shortfall the following fiscal year. Now, with more accurate enrollment figures the projections are not as bleak.
"There's basically almost 900 fewer seats than what we originally projected," Pinkston said.
In fact charter schools are expected to cost $8 million less than expected.
"The major take away from all of this is charter enrollment growth just isn't moving as fast as they projected it was," Pinkston said.
"We have a ton of interest," new charter school operator Todd Dickson explained. "So it's been really exciting that so many families are really interested in that type of school."
Dickson's Valor Collegiate will serve middle school students starting with the 5th grade in South Nashville this fall.
"We have 140 seats next year," Dickson said, "and we have well over twice as many applications for those 140 seats."
With 17 of 23 schools reporting, overall there are 53 percent more applications for Metro's charters than space available, according to the Tennessee Charter School Center. It's their confirmation that demand is high.
"We based projections on the information that the charter operators gave to us," Pinkston said.
Enrollment figures for any school are often inexact, especially so early in the year. Still the adjustment is good news for Metro's bottom line.
"It's less out of control financially than it was this time a year ago," Pinkston said. "We're feeling better about the budget."