Tuesday, October 22, 2013

MNPS blame budget woes on Charter Schools, Seeks More Funding. Workshop video of Special Meeting

Below is the video of the special joint MNPS and Metro Council Budget and Finance Committee meeting and the Metro Council Education Committee meeting that occurred last Thursday night.

When students leave a traditional school and enter a charter school the Metro and State per pupil funding of $9,100 follows the student to the charter school. MNPS officials argue that even though they no longer have to educate that child they still have "fixed" overhead cost and that causes the school system to be financially burdened.

Watching the workshop you will learn that the average annual school enrollment growth rate is 4% and only 5% of all Metro Public School student are in charter school. So, the number of students in traditional  public schools are continuing to increase. Charter schools are suppressing the rate of growth of new students in non-charter schools but still, more students are entering the non-charter schools system every year than are being siphoned off to charter schools.

I think the argument that charter schools are a drain on the school budget is bogus. MNPS should be able to absorb a student growth that is less than it would have been if not for charter schools without facing a severe financial hardship. An organization as large as the MNSP should be able to cut overhead. Overhead is not fixed. Watching this workshop you will learn that despite twelve school located in North and East Nashville being at below 70% capacity, the School Board is not considering closing or consolidating any school. 

I can't help but speculate what the argument of the MNPS would be if all of the students in charter schools were suddenly put in traditional schools. I would bet the argument would be that they need more money. They would argue that the additional students created a cost to the system greater than the $9100 per pupil increase in funding.

School Board member  Elissa Kim makes the point that of all Metro Schools, only eleven are classified as "excelling" and four of those are charter schools. Thirty-six percent of all "excelling" Metro Public schools are charter schools, she points out and yet charters make up only 11% of Nashville public schools. (For Elisha Kim's excellent comments see time stamp 1:11:18.)

Instead of scapegoating charter schools, the MNPS should be learning the lessons of charter schools, cutting the bloated bureaucracy, and embracing excellence in education. This is disappointing.

Below is The Tennessean's report on this meeting:
Metro school officials continued pointing to the rising cost of operating charter schools 

Thursday, but this time they had Metro Council members to their side as the two parties began a dialogue on a projected $23 million shortfall. The message from Metro Nashville Public Schools didn’t change: the expansion and increase of charter schools — 22 will be operating in Nashville next year — is expected to place a $62.2 million burden on the 2014-15 budget, up from $4.6 million just five years ago.(link)

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