Saturday, August 17, 2013

The dirty politics of pitting teachers against charters

At the School Board meeting this week, Director of Schools Jesse Register said the Metro Nashville Public Schools would need an additional $38.4 million in  the 2014-15 fiscal year budget over the current budget approved in June. The reason for this massive increase? Charter schools. (See Metro school officials fear 'tipping point' coming with charter costs.)

Register is claiming that teachers will not get a step pay increase without the additional funding. This is just dirty politics pitting teachers against charters.

Under the state’s charter school law, state funding follows the student. If a student attends a charter school, that money goes to the charter. Metro gets about $9,200 in state funds for every student. MNPS officials contend that the money lost when students leave for charter schools is not offset by a matching drop in expenses. Metro still has to run the same bus routes, they say, still must have an many classrooms and teachers and there is no reduction in overhead.

Here is why that is a phony argument. Enrollment is growing and with the district's growing enrollment, it gets more revenue from the State BEP finance system for each student that comes into the district. The new students coming into the district about equals the number of students leaving district schools and going to charter schools. So those "empty" district seats are really getting replaced by new students coming in.

The district bureaucracy and overhead eats up hundreds of millions of dollars. A lot of dollars don't flow to classrooms for children. If teachers want to get mad for not getting raises, they can point fingers at Dr. Register for running a top heavy bloated central administration. It is a false choice for a district leader to say we can't trim any costs or move any costs around. Nothing is a fixed cost. If they wanted to fund charters AND give teachers a step raise increase, they could easily do so by cutting inefficient programs or top heavy central office costs.

It is worth noting that $21.8 million of the proposed $38.4 million they "need" is blamed on charters. What about the other $17 million? Where is that going? Some may go to pension, insurance increases, etc...but some of that money represents new spending CHOICES.

Charter schools get results and they get much better results with far less money.  Does anyone think that if a charter school was taking over the old Ward Belmont School that a charter would spend $8.2 million to convert what was once was a school back into a school?

Teachers should not let the administration instill in them envy and resentment of charter school. Charters pay their teachers more, and get less per pupil funding than district schools do. Maybe district teachers can go to  work for charters and make more money and enjoy their profession more.

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