MNPS Searching For Options To Close Deficit
by Aundrea Cline-Thomas
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Metro's traditional classrooms could absorb the brunt of the cuts, while charter schools could go unscathed as the district determines how to close a $23 million deficit projected for the 2014-2015 school year.
Tuesday, during the Budget and Finance Committee meeting, Dr. Jesse Register presented cost saving measures to the school board.
"When you're talking about making fairly significant reductions in expenditures there aren't many places to go besides staff," Register told the board.
He proposed closing Enhanced Option and/or under-utilized schools that are at less than 70 percent capacity. The list includes Rosebank, Inglewood and Robert E. Lillard elementary schools; Haynes, Gra-Mar, Isaac Litton, Jere Baxter, Bailey and McKissack middle schools and Whites Creek, Maplewood and Stratford high schools.
Another option is to increase class size from 7th through 12th grades in areas where smaller classes were designed to provide students with more individualized attention. Outsourcing services was also presented as another option to consider.
However, the board avoided addressing charter school growth, beyond providing perspective regarding the impending deficit.
"The next school it's projected to be the first time (charter schools will) consume every dime of new revenue and then some," Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Will Pinkston said. "…which leaves very little or nothing for our existing schools, students and teachers."
For weeks, the school board characterized its financial situation as a "tipping point," identifying charters as the catalyst to their angst. Then came a legal opinion from the district's lawyers that deemed the Tennessee Charter School law unconstitutional because of the financial burden it places on local districts.
Both were rebutted by charter school parents who protested at the central office. On Monday the Attorney General issued an opinion regarding the charter school law contrary to the district's lawyer's findings.
"The board has some difficult decisions ahead because it's not a fiscally sustainable or responsible path that we're on right now," Pinkston added.
Meanwhile, some City Council members want to issue a moratorium on new charter schools. Tuesday evening, a vote was deferred, but even if granted it would not be legally binding because outside of funding Council does not have any jurisdiction over the school system. But Pinkston says it could spur a necessary conversation.
"Certainly the voice of 40 leaders coming together saying let's have a common sense budget conversation. Let's not continue to feed one type of school and starve the rest of the system," he explained. "We want to continue to do high quality charters when available, when we can afford it but we have to be mindful of the fact that we have existing schools, existing students and teachers who still need our help and support."
The district is hoping to present the cost saving measure to City Council members, Mayor Karl Dean and House Speaker Rep. Beth Harwell (R-Nashville).