Monday, October 05, 2020

There has been a large drop in Metro School enrollment. State money follows the child and this loss of revenue concerns school officials.

by Rod Williams - I am not an education consultant but when we shifted school from students being in the classroom to virtual learning from home, I could have predicted this would happen.  Metro is losing students. 

"More than 6,900 students have withdrawn from the state's second-largest school district since the school year began virtually on Aug. 4 — about 57% of the total number of students who withdrew from the system during the entire 2019-20 school year," reports The Tennessean.

Why this is happening is not hard to figure out.  With Children learning from home in front of a computer, and engaged parents helping their children, many parents may have decided that they could home school.  Before, they thought it was too daunting a task. Learning from home but still part of the Metro School System was like a half-way step and an opportunity to see what it would be like without jumping in with both feet. 

Also, I suspect that when parents had the opportunity to see what their children were being taught, they were disappointed that it did not align with their values or that it was insufficiently​ challenging and rigorous.  They may have decided their child would get a better education in a private school or home schooled or another district.  

As Metro has delayed reopening while other counties opened, some parents may have decided now was a good time to relocate, so some families moved away.  They may have realized that while the commute may be a little longer, housing cost is cheaper and their children would get a better education in Wilson County or some other nearby county. 

Some older, less-disciplined students doing poorly in school anyway, probably found it easier to skip virtual school than real school and fell further behind and decided to just drop out.  That is a shame but I can understand how it would happen. 

"Of the 6,902 students who have withdrawn from Metro Schools since August, 2," the article reports, "2, 902 have moved out of Nashville to another public school system; 1,137 have moved out of state; 568 have opted to home school and 1,074 have enrolled in a non-public school." The 1,221 balance are students considered "dropped out" or a few various other categories. Of course, we don't know if the dropped out stayed dropped out or ended up somewhere else.

Just as it was easy to predict that the switch from real school to virtual school would lead to a decline in enrollment, it was easy to predict what school officials and school board members would say about it.  At the last school board meeting, Chief Operating Officer Chris Henson told the board that the loss of enrollment could result in a loss of between $11 million and $12 million.  This loss would be from the state which pays the school system $3,655 per student.  There is a lot of bemoaning this loss of revenue. 

This loss of revenue seems reasonable to me. If you are serving fewer students it should not take the same amount of money as it does to serve a greater number of students.  Now, to be fair, in the short run, some overhead cost are fixed so not all cost decline immediately when enrollment declines. Unfortunately, Metro School administration think overhead should never be cut.  This is the argument they use in opposing charter school. Despite that the burden of educating that child is shifted to a charter school, Metro school officials and board members still want the revenue. They want the child because they want the revenue. 

This loss of students actually gives Metro Schools more money to educate each child.  Metro Schools still gets the same $3,655 from the state per student for those students remaining.  Metro Schools gets about 37% of Metro's total revenue. Metro does not allocate money to the School Board on a per child basis, but allocates a lump sum dollar amount.  So, the money Metro provides to the school system does not decline with declining enrollment, so with declining enrollment, Metro Schools have more money per child.  That is the way one ought to view a declining enrollment; not as a loss of revenue but as increase in the money per child the school system gets for educating children.  

Metro's declining enrollment did not just suddenly happen with the Covid-19 pandemic.  There was a jump this year but Metro's student enrollment has been declining in real numbers since 2016 and as a ratio of school enrollment to population longer than that. As our population has been growing our school enrollment has been dropping. The surrounding counties school enrollment has been increasing.  This tells me that parents are voting with their feet.  They see Metro schools as failing and know their child can get a better education in a nearby county.  It is possible to get a good education in Nashville's public schools but there are simply not enough Grandberys and Hume Foggs to go around. Metro Schools should worry less about social engineering, cut the blotted bureaucracy, and improve our schools so parents want to send their child to a Metro school. Be it a charter school or a traditional school, a quality education for every child should be the goal. 
For more on this topic follow this link and this link

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