Friday, March 30, 2018

State of Schools Address ignores declining enrollment, pretends there is not a problem.

If you want to skip the introductory speeches and the entertainment and the event and instead just read the text of Dr. Joseph's address you can find it at this link.

The annual State of Schools address follows some bad news and a week of discontent from School Board member, teachers, staff, and parents. The proposed budget for the coming years cuts 38 positions mostly in the area of social workers and truant officers. Some of the programs that attract parents of higher performing students are being cut, so-called "legacy" positions such as World language, Suzuki Strings, STEM (Science, technology, engineering and math), advanced academics, and International Baccalaureate. Some students who now get free lunch will have to start paying for lunch. MNPS will get $7 million less from the State this year because there were 1,500 fewer students enrolled in the district than last year. 

With Nashville's population growing and yet school attendance shrinking, I think a theme of the State of Schools address should be to ask, "Why are we failing to attract students?" It would be good to have some data in order to know how bad the problem really is. Is Metro school enrollment shrinking while surrounding counties school enrollments are growing?  Is Metro school enrollment shrinking while private school enrollment is growing?  Is enrollment shrinking because there are fewer school age children in the metro Nashville area or because parents avoid putting their children in Metro schools? What are the numbers? What is the plan to make Metro School attractive to parents or is Metro Schools to be a dumping ground for those with no other options. The State of School address pretends there is not a problem.

This years proposed budget of $942 million is actually a 5.1 percent increase over the current budget. With 5.1 percent more money and 1500 fewer students, one might think Metro Schools would be in a good position but that is not the way the school board and many others see it. Teachers were asking for a 5% wage increase instead of the 2% they are being given. More than half of the new money in the proposed budget will be spend on employees.

In his address,  Dr. Joseph praises achievements in the 2017-18 school year and says the math and reading scores show that Metro schools showed improvement across the board at a rate of improvement higher than the national average. He discusses the schools  support of literacy efforts, college readiness, social emotional learning, equity and diversity, and employee compensation.

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