The Budget: World Class Music for Every Student

The Board of Education approved the 2014-15 budget request on April 8. It calls for a $32.5 million increase over last year. That increase includes $17.3 million in required spending like inflation and payouts to charter schools. The rest is made up of strategic priorities to improve instruction in our classrooms.

  • Budget Item: Music Makes Us
  • Investment: $723,400

by Laurie Schell, Director of Music Makes Us

Springtime in Nashville – flowering pear trees, red maple, dogwood in bloom. And music in our schools. Lots of it.

A joint effort of Metro Schools, Mayor Karl Dean and music industry and community leaders, the Music Makes Us initiative is quickly becoming a presence in the community because of the community. We are becoming a district known for its world class music education thanks to the leadership of Mayor Karl Dean, Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register, the Music Makes Us Advisory Council members and the Nashville music and arts community.

Just a sampling of this spring’s musical endeavors shows how far we’ve come:

  • East Nashville Magnet School Choir working a gig with Ben Folds.
  • Meigs Magnet Middle School Wind Ensemble performing at the annual Tennessee Music Education Association Convention.
  • Mariachi Internacional de Nashville from Glencliff High School performing at the GRAMMY Block Party.
  • Disney Musicals in the Schools in partnership with the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in 15 schools serving elementary, middle and special needs students.
  • ASCAP songwriters teaching their craft at Hillwood, Overton and Nashville School of the Arts High Schools.

Music education is part of the big picture. A recent research study called Prelude: Music Makes Us Baseline Research Report (2013) shows music participation in Metro Schools has important direct and indirect effects on school engagement and academic achievement. Music participation makes a significant, positive difference in student attendance, discipline, grades, graduation rates and test scores. Overall, the more a student participates in music, the more positive these benefits become.

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Proof the Music Makes Us is making a difference: Watch the inspiring story of Rex Yape and his incredible talent.

For Metro students, music is the language of opportunity and access. Founding donors and key partners, including Martha Ingram, Gibson Guitars, Big Machine, Curb Records, Warner Music Nashville, Little Kids Rock and KHS America have enabled us to launch signature contemporary programs that engage more students in making music. Of the 40 new contemporary classes added in middle and high schools, the mariachi, world percussion, songwriting and hip hop classes in particular are reaching students outside of traditional music. Some students are recent immigrants, with limited English proficiency. Some see the contemporary classes as more accessible for those with little prior musical experience. All are gaining valuable skills and knowledge.

Programs are still growing. The Country Music Association Foundation’s Keep the Music Playing program in Metro Schools is creating lasting impact, with their $7 million contribution over the past 7 years. The new instruments have enabled our chorus, band and orchestra programs to reach new heights of musical achievement. This is reflected in the 16% increase in the number of ensembles participating in Concert Performance Assessment in 2013 and in their improved rating. 69% improved their overall rating or remained at the superior level for 2 consecutive years.

We aren’t just blowing our own horn. It’s official! The NAMM Foundation recognizes Metro Nashville Public Schools for its outstanding commitment to music education with a Best Communities for Music Education (BCME) designation. Metro Schools joins 376 districts across the country to receive the prestigious distinction in 2014. In its 15th year, Best Communities for Music Education affirms school districts that have demonstrated exceptional efforts toward maintaining music education as part of the schools’ core curriculum.

Music is in the air.

For more information, visit http://musicmakesus.org.

Read More in the Budget Series:
Part 1 – Prekindergarten
Part 2 – Teacher and Staff Pay Raises
Part 3 – Technology and Training
Part 4 – Literacy
Part 5 – World Class Music Education for Every Student

Metro Schools officials have a budget hearing with the Metro Council scheduled for June 4 at 4:15 p.m. in the Council Chambers. Wear blue to show your support for Metro Schools.

The Budget: Literacy

The Board of Education approved the 2014-15 budget request on April 8. It calls for a $32.5 million increase over last year. That increase includes $17.3 million in required spending like inflation and payouts to charter schools. The rest is made up of strategic priorities to improve instruction in our classrooms.

  • Budget Priority: Dramatic Literacy Gains
  • Investment: $1.29 million

We have set very ambitious goals for our district. Our strategic plan, Education 2018: Excellence for Every Student, calls for 71% of all students to score proficient or advanced on state assessments by 2018. That’s going to take a lot of work and some pretty dramatic gains.

How do we make them? To meet ambitious goals, we need an ambitious plan. It has to address overall instruction so we’re improving in every classroom while also giving intensive support to schools with large percentages of struggling students.

To make the gains we need in reading and language arts, we’ve developed a full literacy plan with two parts, both designed to deliver big results:

  1. Highly targeted intervention programs for students reading below grade level.
  2. Expert partnerships for continuous improvement of everyday classroom instruction.

Intervention

The key to intervention is to see where individual students stand academically and meet them at that level. Teachers can focus on their strengths and their weaknesses to catch them up to grade level. That’s what personalized learning is all about.

To make this happen, we want to hire Reading Recovery teachers who are dedicated to helping kids catch up. They will work with small groups and individuals for intensive literacy instruction leading to mastery.

We also want to open reading clinics with one-on-one tutoring and online intervention programs. These can be spread around the city and even move from school to school as needed.

Improved Instruction

To make sure our everyday classroom literacy instruction is and remains top notch, we will train literacy coaches and school literacy teams who can work with all teachers on how to improve their instruction and student outcomes. Through a partnership with Lipscomb University, recently named one of the top four teacher prep programs in the country, these coaches will get year-long literacy training.

To oversee all of this, we have a Director of Literacy with a focused vision for reading instruction from prekindergarten to 12th grade. This is the kind of intensive support our students need and the level of attention they deserve.

Read More in the Budget Series:
Part 1 – Prekindergarten
Part 2 – Teacher and Staff Pay Raises
Part 3 – Technology and Training
Part 4 – Literacy
Part 5 – World Class Music Education for Every Student

Metro Schools officials have a budget hearing with the Metro Council scheduled for June 4 at 4:15 p.m. in the Council Chambers. Wear blue to show your support for Metro Schools.

The Budget: Technology and training

The Board of Education approved the 2014-15 budget request on April 8. It calls for a $32.5 million increase over last year. That increase includes $17.3 million in required spending like inflation and payouts to charter schools. The rest is made up of strategic priorities to improve instruction in our classrooms.

  • Budget Priority: Technology to improve instruction and training teachers to use it
  • Investment: $1.3 million for technology and $1.3 million for training

In five years, Metro Schools can be the highest-performing urban district in the country. Our strategic plan, Education 2018: Excellence for Every Student, lays out specific strategies to get there.

The key to the entire plan is personalized learning for every student. To do that, we must transform the way we teach and manage classrooms through technology. We are already heavily invested in that transformation thanks to the federal Race to the Top grant. By continuing our investment, we will achieve our goals.

The Metro Schools Learning Technology team is second to none in the United States. Dr. Kecia Ray, who leads the team, is the president of the International Society for Technology in Education and was recently named one of “20 to Watch in Education Technology” by the National School Boards Association.

Combined with the very best teaching, our learning technology plan will ensure our students get more instruction targeted to their specific needs and abilities.

Our learning technology plan has three key parts:

  1. Software to make classrooms more efficient
    Rather than making teachers use a half dozen or more different systems, we’ve brought together all of our computer-based instruction into a single program called SchoolNet.SchoolNet puts everything right at a teacher’s fingertips: lesson plans, standards, data, best practices and more. Further, it helps teachers report and analyze data so they can personalize instruction based on individual student needs.By making it easier to access and interpret all this information in one place, teachers save time and have a more complete picture of each student’s performance and needs.
  2. Software to personalize learning for teachers
    Personalization doesn’t stop at students. Teachers will get targeted professional development from a library of lessons called PD360. Just as the teacher analyzes a student’s performance and decides the best approach for instruction, the PD360 library can give targeted professional development aligned with each teacher’s individual needs.
  3. Online student instruction
    Mirroring many colleges and professional work environments, all Metro Schools graduates are expected to have taken at least one class online. The MNPS Virtual School offers a full slate of online courses for full- and part-time students. Teachers can also take professional development courses online. All of these online courses are delivered through software called Blackboard, which was originally funded through Race to the Top.

This technology is great and is vital to personalized learning, but what does that matter if teachers aren’t trained to use it?

Our All-Star Training program, already well underway, is the largest professional development program we’ve ever undertaken. Every single teacher in Metro Schools will finish it by July 1, 2014. It shows teachers how to make best use of the technology we provide, how to align their work with the Common Core State Standards and PARCC assessments, and how they can share their best practices and borrow great ideas from other teachers. Nearly 10 percent of our classroom teachers have already completed the training (as of early April).

When they complete the training, teachers receive a laptop. That way we give them to know-how and the tools to personalize learning for every student.

This training could soon be a national best practice. Public school districts from Memphis, San Diego and New York City, as well as private companies, have approached us about using our All-Star training.

To continue our successes and build more in the future, we must keep investing in the technology that will help get us there.

Read More in the Budget Series:
Part 1 – Prekindergarten
Part 2 – Teacher and Staff Pay Raises
Part 3 – Technology and Training
Part 4 – Literacy
Part 5 – World Class Music Education for Every Student

Metro Schools officials have a budget hearing with the Metro Council scheduled for June 4 at 4:15 p.m. in the Council Chambers. Wear blue to show your support for Metro Schools.

The Budget: A pay raise for all teachers and staff

The Board of Education approved the 2014-15 budget request on April 8. It calls for a $32.5 million increase over last year. That increase includes $17.3 million in required spending like inflation and payouts to charter schools. The rest is made up of strategic priorities to improve instruction in our classrooms. 

  • Budget Priority: Teacher and Staff Pay Raises and Other Compensation
  • Investment: $8 million

Under the 2014-15 budget request, all Metro teachers and staff would receive a two percent pay raise. Most years, the Governor calls for a statewide teacher pay raise that the state helps fund. His proposed budget does not include a statewide raise this year, but Metro Schools wants to recruit and retain the best.

By funding a teacher and staff raise locally, we reward the hard working educators who are helping Nashville students make real, measurable progress. We also keep pace with other districts and other states and stay competitive in teacher pay.

If we want a great teacher in every Metro classroom, we have to be able to attract teachers from all over the country and develop and retain them once they get here. More than half our early career teachers whose students make significant gains year after year tell us they do not plan to stay at Metro Schools for their entire careers.

There aren’t many teachers who teach for the money, but competitive pay is still crucial to effective teacher recruitment and retention.

A two percent raise for all 6,000 teachers would cost around $7.3 million, while the same raise for support staff is $2 million.

Other cost increases in compensation aren’t a choice. They are required. Those include increases in pension and retiree insurance. But thanks to savings from our retirement incentive program ($3.4 million) and FICA contributions ($1.6 million), those costs are offset somewhat.

While we cannot be certain about any pay raises until the Metro Council approves a final budget amount in June, we believe a pay raise for all employees rewards the hard work and improvements happening in our schools and will keep our district on track to attract and retain the very best teachers and staff.

Read More in the Budget Series:
Part 1 – Prekindergarten
Part 2 – Teacher and Staff Pay Raises
Part 3 – Technology and Training
Part 4 – Literacy
Part 5 – World Class Music Education for Every Student

Metro Schools officials have a budget hearing with the Metro Council scheduled for June 4 at 4:15 p.m. in the Council Chambers. Wear blue to show your support for Metro Schools.

The Budget: Expanding prekindergarten pays off big dividends

The Board of Education approved the 2014-15 budget request on April 8. It calls for a $32.5 million increase over last year. That increase includes $17.3 million in required spending like inflation and payouts to charter schools. The rest is made up of strategic priorities to improve instruction in our classrooms.

  • Budget Priority: Adding 340 New Prekindergarten Seats
  • Investment: $3.4 million for hiring teachers, buying equipment, developing curriculum and more

Less than half of students coming into kindergarten in Metro Schools have access to affordable, high-quality preschool programs. Right now in our own prekindergarten classes, we can only serve about 2,500 kids. Head Start serves another 1,400 children, and private providers serve more, but many families who want and need pre-K are not served.

There are more than 1,100 children on our pre-k wait list. We need to change that.

One of our top budget priorities this year is to start expanding pre-k now so we can serve all eligible families in Davidson County by 2018. The first step is adding 340 new high-quality pre-k seats next year in strategically located Pre-k Model Learning Centers.

We’ve already talked about the whys and the research extensively, so let’s get into the particulars that give this plan the potential for success for a relatively small investment.

The Board of Education has approved turning Ross and Bordeaux Elementary Schools into model pre-k centers, as well as opening new classrooms in the Casa Azafran community center on Nolensville road. These centers will provide:

  • Exemplary teachers and assistant teachers in every classroom with knowledge of early childhood development
  • Instructional leaders focused on creating centers of excellence in staff development
  • Intensive focus on language development, early math skills and multicultural programming
  • Priority placed on children’s social-emotional development and executive function
  • Full-day programming (8:00 am to 3:00 pm), with before and after-care options
  • Strong parent engagement, including parent education, to support student learning at home
  • Partnerships to ensure comprehensive health and social services for students and families

The Model Learning Centers won’t just serve students, but teachers, too. Pre-k teachers from across Nashville will come to the Centers to learn best practices and get professional development.

To focus on that instructional quality in addition to classroom quantity, we’re partnering with the Peabody Research Institute at Vanderbilt University to help us develop the program and the best practices to be modeled in these centers. We are also working with Head Start, the United Way, Conexion Americas and other experts in community service to better serve the whole child and provide wrap-around services for families. If families and children have access to what they need outside school, they have a better chance for success in school.

The need for more pre-k seats is particularly urgent now, as changes to Tennessee kindergarten age requirements mean as many as 800-1,000 Nashville children will be left without an affordable, high-quality early learning option. If we want to see real progress in educational outcomes in Nashville, we have to start early. That means getting more students into pre-k, where they can be adequately prepared for a rich and rewarding K-12 learning experience.

Metro Schools officials will meet with Mayor Dean for a budget hearing on Wednesday, April 16, at 11:00 a.m. in the Mayor’s Office. The hearing with Metro Council is scheduled for June 4 at 4:15 p.m. in the Council Chambers. Wear blue to show your support for Metro Schools.

What can you do to help heating and cooling at your school?

We hear you: there are some heat issues in Metro schools. Some classrooms, lunchrooms and libraries scattered across the district are colder than normal.

We know it, and we’re addressing it. The unprecedented cold that has gripped Nashville this month has made it very difficult. When possible, principals and teachers work together to make other arrangements for students in cold classrooms. I’ve personally spoken with many principals who either moved students to a warmer part of the building or let them wear extra coats and jackets.

But you should know this: our maintenance crews are still working long hours to make repairs. They haven’t stopped working since this cold snap started early this month. They prioritize repair jobs according to a strict system and get to work on what needs it most.

So what is the long-term solution here? Besides making basic repairs or temporary fixes to get us through the rest of the winter, what can we do to keep students comfortable now and in the future?

Support funding for our schools.

Food for thought: MNPS has 14 million square feet of space in 200 buildings. The average age of our buildings is 43 years. Each campus has an average of 100 pieces of heating and cooling equipment. Many of these systems are old, sometimes very old.

We have a team of just 15 people on our HVAC crew to maintain them all.

Our maintenance employees work hard to keep systems running, but some just need to be replaced. That takes capital funding. The best way to ensure long-term solutions to cold buildings is to support capital funding for Metro Schools.

By supporting capital funding, you are not only making sure we can replace aging boilers and air handlers, you are also helping us get rid of portables at schools like Lakeview Elementary, Westmeade Elementary, Paragon Mills Elementary and many more. The more classrooms we can build with capital funds, the fewer students we will have to serve in portable, temporary classrooms.

How does capital funding work? Our Board of Education approves a capital funding request that includes all projects we want to fund this year. The Mayor and Metro Council then review that request and decide how much of it to fund.

The Board of Education will vote on this year’s Capital Budget request in a specially called meeting this Thursday night at 6:00 p.m. You can watch the live-blog of their vote right here.

See the full Capital Budget proposal right here.

To see what it’s like to be one of those people working hard to keep HVAC equipment running, read this.

To see how this season has affected our crews – and their budgets – read this.

Mayor announces $6 million capital plan for student technology

Mayor Karl Dean will file legislation with the Metro Council for $6 million in capital funding to purchase student technology needed for PARCC testing.

From the Mayor’s Office:

Mayor Announces Investment of City Capital Funds to Purchase Technology for Metro Schools

New Computers Would be Purchased With $6 Million Capital Plan

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Mayor Karl Dean today announced that legislation has been filed with the Metro Council to use city capital funds to purchase $6 million of technology for Metro Schools, which would fund computers to prepare students for Common Core State Standards and taking new state-required standardized tests.

“Education has been and remains my top priority, and as a supporter of the more rigorous Common Core State Standards and the testing that accompanies them, I am dedicated to ensuring that our students have the tools they need to succeed,” Mayor Dean said. “Using city capital funds will also allow Metro Schools’ reserve fund to remain at its current healthy level, which is critical in the event that an unforeseen financial emergency should occur. I appreciate the collaborative effort that Metro Schools has made to reach this agreement and help ensure that we are providing our students with the resources they need while still exercising fiscal restraint.”

After discussions between the city and Metro Schools, both agreed a $6 million capital plan would allow Metro Schools to purchase computers and computer carts for students to prepare for Common Core and take the new tests. Metro Schools plans to use existing resources in its operating budget to cover teacher training. The Metro School Board initially voted to use $14.8 million from reserve funds to pay for new technology, teacher training and other items. This new capital plan allows Metro Schools to meet its testing needs without tapping into reserve funds.

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are more rigorous educational standards to ensure students graduate high school prepared for college or career. In many states that are implementing Common Core, students in grades 3 to 11 take new state-mandated tests, called Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). In Tennessee, students will take PARCC tests for the first time next school year.

“On behalf of Metro Schools, I want to thank Mayor Dean for proposing this agreement to our technology funding request,” said Jesse Register, director of Metro Schools. “Now, we should be able to fully implement our technology plan by the time school starts next year with this solution. We are fortunate to have a Mayor who is willing to use city resources to support the needs of our students.”

Today’s substitute legislation amends a $15 million capital spending plan for heavy equipment that was filed a week ago by adding the $6 million technology purchase.

Severe weather underlines need for school building improvements, expansions

The flood of May 2010 had a devastating impact on all of Nashville. Even those not directly affected knew someone who was. Lives were lost, homes were destroyed, businesses were ruined and whole neighborhoods had to be rebuilt.

For Metro Schools buildings and facilities, the 2014 “arctic vortex” was worse.

The damage was more widespread and emergency repairs more numerous than after the great flood. It’s a rare occurrence, but also the perfect illustration of employee dedication to Nashville’s students.

Here are the raw numbers from last week:

  • 369 work orders for heat
  • 75 work orders for plumbing (so far)
  • 250 bus repairs
  • 100 “road calls” for bus repairs off-site
  • 120 bus batteries replaced
  • More than $132,000 in maintenance costs alone. That does not include costs to the Transportation Department.

But the most important number is this one:

  • 2 instructional days lost

We hate to lose instruction days, but given the circumstances we’re pleased that number isn’t higher. If not for Metro Schools employees working around the clock (literally) in extreme circumstances (like zero-degree temperatures and sometimes chest-high water), it could have been much, much worse.

The hard work of Metro maintenance crews, transportation workers and GCA custodial teams allowed us to start our semester with minimal disruption. We owe them our thanks – today and every day – for keeping our schools in order.

They are prime examples of our philosophy that every single Metro Schools employee is responsible for supporting students.

The maintenance crews do their best with the resources available, but extreme cold takes a toll, particularly on aging plumbing and HVAC systems. The average age of our buildings is 43 years.

The clean up from this weather shines a big spotlight on the need for capital improvements in Metro school buildings. Not only are vital systems often decades old and in need of updating, but our schools use more than 350 portables just to house all 83,000 of our students.

Those portables suffer most in bad weather, with poor insulation, vulnerable electrical lines, no foundations and open walkways back to the main school building.

All told, needed improvements to Metro Schools facilities total more than $1 billion. We chip away at that bit by bit every year through the capital budget allocation from Metro Government, but new needs and changing circumstances – like extreme cold – keep adding to it.

A safe and comfortable learning environment is essential for student success in school. With support from the city, we can give students the buildings they deserve to learn in every day.

Facts on fund balance & why we must spend on technology

UPDATE (Jan. 17, 3:25 p.m.): Mayor Karl Dean will file legislation with the Metro Council for $6 million in capital funding to purchase technology needed for PARCC testing.

Read the full press release from the Mayor’s Office.

PREVIOUSLY:

What is a fund balance?

The amount of money we receive from Metro Government is based on a projection of county revenue. When revenue is more than expected, the difference goes into a “fund balance,” a pot of extra money set aside for a rainy day. Likewise, if we do not spend all of the money in a given year’s budget, the remaining funds go into the fund balance.

Metro Government policy dictates we keep the fund balance high enough so that it’s equal to at least 5% of our operating budget, a number we’ve beaten handily for several years.

Are charter schools part of this fund balance?

Interestingly enough, no, even though they are funded according to the same methods we are. Any extra money they receive is readily available for spending. They do not need special authorization from the Metro Council as the district does.

What is the fund balance spent on?

The Metro Council must approve any use of the fund balance, usually based on a recommendation from the Mayor.

Earlier this fall, the Board of Education approved a plan to use some of the fund balance. The Board sent a request to the Mayor to use parts of its fund balance for big, one-time expenses including:

  1. Retirement incentives for 30+ year employees
  2. Technology and teacher training to prepare for state-mandated PARCC testing for Common Core State Standards
  3. A newer, more efficient timekeeping service that will help us better keep track of employee hours, attendance and pay

The Mayor recommended to Council to allow us to tap the fund balance for item #1, and we are grateful for that. The retirement incentives could save our district between $2-7 million per year in employee costs.

The Mayor did not recommend our requests for funding for timekeeping services and to buy technology and properly train teachers for upcoming PARCC tests.

What are PARCC tests and why do teachers need to be trained?

PARCC testing is the online testing that goes hand-in-hand with the new Common Core State Standards. It will take the place of TCAP and End-of-Course tests very soon. The entire state is moving to PARCC testing, along with most other states. Just like Common Core State Standards, PARCC assessments have been developed by the states, not by the federal government.

Huge portions of PARCC testing are only done online. That means our classrooms and teachers need to be technology ready before we can even take the tests, much less score well.

That gives us three big, immediate needs:

  1. Buy 8-9,000 laptops, enough to allow every student in the largest grades of every school to all take online tests simultaneously.
  2. Prepare our schools with strong enough wifi to handle all the simultaneous traffic.
  3. Train teachers on using the new technology for classroom instruction and on the specifics of PARCC testing and the technology to administer PARCC.

Need #2 is finished. That’s a project we proudly capped off this semester. Needs #1 #3 are still needed. We need to buy more laptops and train some 6,000 teachers and staff to ensure proper administration.

As you can imagine, that costs money. Our hope was to use some of the fund balance to pay for this, and incorporate future technology needs and upgrades into future operating and capital budgets.

Why didn’t you just ask for this money in the operating and capital budget process this year?

We did.  For the last few years, the Board of Education requested millions of dollars in technology funding from the Mayor and Metro Council, but those requests have only been partly met, if they were met at all.

We haven’t made a substantial investment in technology since the 2007-2008 school year, when we received $14 million for technology spending. Every year since has been $10 million or less, and some years have been $0. Our ten-year plan calls for $15-20 million every year in technology spending just to keep up.

What will you do without the funding for this technology and training?

We will have to find the money elsewhere. We must provide the technology for students to take PARCC assessments and must train teachers to use the technology and administer the assessments.

Just like the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce recommended, we intend to be the leading district in Tennessee in implementing and communicating Common Core State Standards. And nothing has changed about the need to buy more technology for PARCC testing.

Facts on district revenue and per-pupil spending

In past articles, we’ve shown you how much money we get and where it all goes.

Our community deserves an honest dialogue – without ideology and special interest talking points – about school funding that includes a fair assessment of needs, expenses, and revenue.

So let’s talk for a moment about where money comes from and under what circumstances we get more of it.

Where does revenue come from?

About a third of our operating budget comes from the State of Tennessee. They give us a certain amount of money per student and according to what kind of student. When more students enroll, our revenue from the state goes up, to the tune of about $3,200 per student.

The other two-thirds comes from the Metro Government, paid from county taxes and allocated by the Mayor’s Office and the Metro Council. The amount of money we get from the Metro Government is fixed. It is not tied to a per-student formula the way state money is.

This year our enrollment is up by nearly 1,800 students. About a third of our revenue (from the state) reflected that increase. The other two-thirds of our revenue (from the Metro Government) remained flat.

[NOTE: We received a $26 million increase in our operating budget from the 2012-13 school year to the 2013-14 school year. Of this $26 million, $12 million came from our own fund balance, $10 million came from the state and $4 million came from Metro Government.]

How does that money move around the district?

It’s a phrase people use a lot: per-pupil spending. Metro Schools spends around $9,100 per pupil in grades K-12. When a student moves from one school to another, the money theoretically follows him.

If the student leaves his neighborhood school and moves into a magnet school, he is moving from one district-operated school to another. The money attached to him stays in the same pot of district money and our per-pupil spending amount stays the same.

When a student leaves his neighborhood school – or a magnet school – for a charter school, the $9,100 moves to the charter management organization that runs the charter.

When a student leaves a district school for a private school, the money does not follow him to the private school. The district loses the state revenue associated with that student, but the private school does not get it. The funding from Metro Government is unchanged. The private school gets private money in the form of tuition.

The expenses of the neighborhood school don’t increase with every additional student and don’t decline with every student departure. The school is spending the same amount to keep its lights on and its hallways clean. The school still has teachers to pay and technology to buy and maintain.

Innovative practices that are designed to quickly improve achievement could face tough times, like extended learning time, model classrooms and certain kinds of school-level professional development.

What’s the solution?

Our strategic plan calls for more equitable use of resources, placing money where it’s needed most for fair service of students. We are already moving toward a model that puts more money directly in the hands of principals, allowing them to spend money in ways that will most directly benefit the unique needs of their students. That will help everyone decide best allocation of existing resources and ensure that money is spent in the most effective ways.

But what about revenue?

The answer will come from a community discussion of school finances. We must have an honest and open dialogue about revenue and expenses. The Board of Education began that conversation this fall, well in advance of the usual budget cycle.

This issue has wide-reaching effects, beyond just budgeting and buying textbooks. It can affect a school’s character and existence.

Let’s look at it at the individual school level. When a school is constantly threatened with drastic budget cuts or even closure, it has a more difficult time attracting students, which leads to further budget reductions.

It is a cycle that puts even more of a burden on teachers and principals to properly educate the students they already have.