Friday, March 23, 2018

School Director Shawn Josepth under fire for budget shortfall and his handling of it.

Metro Schools is facing a $7.5 million shortfall due to getting less money from the State due to a decline in enrollment.  At a time when the greater Nashville area is growing by about 85 people a day the student population in Davidson County public schools is shrinking. I can only assume parents with school age children are choosing to locate somewhere else in the 14-county region rather than Davidson County or are putting their children in private schools. Who can blame them? Nashville is a great place to live. I love this city. However our schools suck! If someone was considering moving here I would have to tell them that we have terrible schools and they may want to live in an adjoining county or figure they will need to send their children to private schools.

It is possible but difficult to get a good education in Davidson County public schools but parents have to be diligent and proactive. The qualify of schools can vary greatly from one school to the other.  Marking sure you live in a neighborhood with good or "not terrible" schools is one way to do it. More important than the size and desirability of the house and the convenience and amenities of the neighborhood, the most important factor in selecting a home in Nashville may be the quality of the district school.  Seeking a good magnet school is another options.  There is no guarantee you can get in a good magnet school but those who do can get a good educations. Unfortunately, some of our best schools are charter schools but they are not widely available and charter schools are only allowed to exist when they can replace a failing school. For many parents who care about their children's education, living in an adjacent county or biting the bullet and sending their child to a private school is the best option.

Metro Nashville School Director Shawn Joseph has come under fire for not alerting the School Board to this expected cut in funding. Members of the School Board and members of the Metro Council are urging Joseph to cut travel and other overhead expenses and not cut funding directed to the classroom. School Board members have called for an audit of the school system funding since Joseph became director.

 When Joseph announced the funding cut, his first response was to announce a drastic shifting of what is called "Title 1" spending.  Title 1 funding is money received from the federal government meant to subsidize the teaching of low-income students. Initially Joseph announced that title 1 funding would only go to schools with 75 percent or more low-income students. That would take money away from some forty schools and funnel it to the poorer schools.  After getting push back, he announced the phase in of this policy would be gradual instead of all taking place this year (link)

Another change Joseph announced is an end to what is called "legacy positions."  This is funding given to some schools separate from money in the funding formula. Legacy positions include things such as  world language, Suzuki Strings, STEM (Science, technology, engineering and math), advanced academics, International Baccalaureate and overall enhanced staffing. These positions could still exist at schools, but principals would have to prioritize funding them without additional district funding. To me, this seems unwise. There must be some middle class parents sticking with Metro Schools because their child can get a good education because the school their child attends participates in the International Baccalaureate program or offers advanced academics. Ending these programs will drive away more middle class families, further leaving Metro Schools as schools only attended by immigrants, Blacks and the poor. With the exist of more middle class parents, lower enrollment will mean even less funding. 

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