Charter Growth And Pay Raises A Part Of MNPS Increased Budget
by Aundrea Cline-Thomas
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Davidson County taxpayers spend more money on public schools than any other area in the county. Tuesday evening, the school board approved a nearly $779 million budget for the 2014-2015 school year, when there may be less money to go around.
"I think the real challenge for us on budget talks is how much can we afford to expand our budget," Dr. Jesse Register, Director of Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) said.
The budget reflects a $32.5 million dollar increase from last year. The big ticket items include the expansion of the Pre-K program that costs $3.4 million.
Even with the MNPS and Head Start programs, it currently leaves more than one thousand 4-year-olds without access to high quality early education.
"I think that can do as much as anything we can do to close achievement gaps for our economically disadvantaged students and many of our minority and English learner students in Nashville," Register explained.
The budget calls for a two percent across the board employee raise that costs $10 million.
"We've got (to) be competitive with salaries," he said.
The expansion of charter schools, that's $14 million.
"That's almost half of the expansion dollars that we're requesting."
And don't forget the continued technology overhaul and teacher training that totals $2.6 million.
"I think the issue is what's the priority in Nashville?"
Funding for Metro Schools already takes up 41 percent of the city's budget. Public safety, the next largest line item, is nearly half as much. Education is clearly a priority, the question is if spending that much more on education makes sound fiscal sense.
"We feel like there's a great momentum for supporting public education this year," Register added.
Mayor Dean has requested detailed information from the district about proposed spending prior to meeting with school leaders. Many of those questions are regarding funding charter schools that Dean supports, but some board members have openly criticized.
Dr. Register will present the budget to Mayor Dean on April 16, 2014.