More counselors and advocacy centers take priority in new Metro school budget

cooper signs budget.jpeg
Posted at 6:42 PM, Jun 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-16 19:43:32-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Now that Metro’s historic $2.6 billion budget has passed, we’re digging deeper into how Metro Nashville Public Schools intends on spending their new funding.

Mayor John Cooper signed Metro’s newly approved budget into law on Wednesday and mentioned how education was a priority they couldn’t overlook.

It wasn’t easy to match the more than $1 billion school budget, but that didn’t stop Mayor Cooper from proposing an additional $81 million to fully fund the school board’s budget request. Something he says hasn’t been done in a generation.

Mayor Cooper signed Metro’s budget surrounded by teachers. A budget that would make it so Nashville teachers are the highest paid in Tennessee.

“We’re committing $56 million, which means the average Metro teacher will see a $7,000 pay increase,” Cooper said.

It’s a pay increase he hopes will allow teachers to afford to stay in Davidson County. Just as important, it may also help lure new teachers to match the city’s growth.

Rachael Anne Elrod is the Vice-Chair of the Metro Nashville Board of Public Education and one of the members who will ultimately decide how money is allocated.

She says for years the district has been focused on pay increases for teachers, but they’ve also emphasized social-emotional learning (SEL). With pay increases to take effect this July, the district will focus on adding more psychologists to the school system. Right now Metro’s ratio is 1 counselor: 1,200 students. Whereas the National Association of School Psychologists recommends 1 counselor: 500 students.

“We’re hoping to try and get to the best practice and what’s considered the norm or less. Of course, we need additional funds to do that,” Elrod said.

One restorative measure they hope to expand on is advocacy centers. These centers give students a safe place to work out any emotional issues. In doing so, they limit the disruptions that keep kids out of class. Metro’s budget is expected to use $1.4 million to cover the cost.

Elrod says down the road the district wants to spend what it takes to hire a more diverse staff. This funding is one step closer to that reality.

“This helps us get to not only the goal of having a teacher inside the classroom, but the best teacher inside the classroom,” Elrod said.