NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Dozens of parents and teachers packed the Metro School's boardroom to voice their opinions about the $7.5 million budget shortfall and the controversial changes to next year's budget.
Metro School board members even blasted the director of schools, saying Metro Schools Director Shawn Joseph hasn’t kept them in the loop as he prepares to slash more than $7 million from this year’s school budget.
“The board only recently learned that the district is facing a purported $7.5 million dollar shortfall for the current school year,” said board member Amy Frogge. “The administration learned about this problem in the fall but the board was not made aware of the amount of the shortfall or of any administrative plans to alleviate it.”
Frogge called for an audit of the school budget. While Joseph said he would support the move, he warned against spending extra money from an already stretched-tight budget.
Joseph replied to the criticism by saying board members should have seen the cuts coming, especially after he said he told the board back in October that there would be a 2,000 student shortfall that would impact the budget.
“I wouldn’t say this should be a surprise to anyone, particularly members who have been on the board for years, who know that when you have a shortfall, within a year, you’ve got to make the cuts,” Joseph said.
Tuesday night's budget committee meeting was followed by a public forum. It was the first chance for parents to let school leaders know how they feel about some controversial changes.
In part, The administration wants to move federal money meant to help low-income students to the schools with the highest needs. That means fewer low-income students get access to that money, but those who do get it, get more.
Between that and a projected drop in enrollment, some schools are looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars in cuts for next year.
“How will anything in this budget convince more parents to send kids to our schools?” Amanda Kail, an MNPS teacher, asked the board during the public comment period Tuesday. “Please know, the people in this room are committed to going to city council and the state legislature to help you fight for the education funding Nashville’s kids deserve.”
No decisions were made Tuesday night. There will be another public hearing on the budget, scheduled for March 27 at 4 p.m.