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Statement on Tennessee Department of Education’s Decision to Cut Funding to

Metro Nashville Public Schools

Funding supports district’s 81,000 children


September 18, 2012


This morning, the district first heard from the State Department of Education about its decision to cut the Metro Schools Basic Education Program allocation by almost $3.4 million in October. We are very disappointed.


BEP is a funding formula and not a spending plan, so there are no funds earmarked for "administrative costs."  The BEP formula for non-classroom expenses includes utilities, student transportation, maintenance and other things that directly affect our 81,000 students and 5,000 classrooms. None of these items are in any way linked to charter school approval processes.


We do not yet have a plan on how we will respond to this disruptive mid-year cut. Our priority will always be to give the best education to our students with the resources we have. Budget amendments require action by the Metro Nashville Board of Education.


Metro Nashville has earned national recognition for its rigorous process to review charter school applications and its process is considered a national model. The Board of Education had genuine concerns about the Great Hearts application and how the district manages diversity. The Board approved four other applications this cycle and the number of charter schools in the district has increased from four in 2009, when the process was adopted, to 14 this year.  Six more are approved to open by 2013, for a total of 20.


We believe children will benefit when the State Department of Education, the State Board of Education, and the local Board of Education and school district work together. In Metro Nashville, we are committed to improving student achievement and to collaborating with the State, quality charter school operators and the people of Nashville for our children.



GCA Services Group, and local company Landscape Services, Inc. (LSI), are making the grade in terms of providing custodial and groundskeeping services to Metro Nashville Public Schools. External auditors found outsourcing these services saved the district at least $6.5 million in 2011, and the services earned a grade of “A” or “B” in 94% of principal surveys.

“GCA has proven to be a great partner to our school system,” said Director of Schools Jesse Register. “Not only have they saved us a significant amount of money that is funneled into the classroom, but GCA staffers are quick to answer any calls or requests for service. We have really been pleased with the partnership and level of service provided.”

Experis Risk Advisory Services conducted the performance audit under the supervision of the Metropolitan Nashville Office of Internal Audit. In the audit, inspectors asked two key questions:

  • Were the expected financial benefits of outsourcing custodial and groundskeeping services at MNPS realized?

  • Were service level expectations for outsourcing custodial and groundskeeping services at MNPS realized?

The answer to each was “Yes.” During the 2011 fiscal year, GCA saved MNPS at least $6.5 million compared to what was budgeted for custodians and groundskeepers. The $22.6 million annual contract with GCA represented 3.6 percent of the fiscal year 2011 budget. The audit projected the district could save a minimum of $32.6 million over the five-year life of the contract, which ends in 2015.

When asked to score GCA’s service quality on six measures of contract performance, 75% of MNPS principals awarded GCA a grade of “A” for outstanding service, while 19% gave a grade of “B” on a scale of “A” to “F”. A grade of “A” and “B” was awarded 94 percent of the time.

Click here to view full audit findings.



Chris Henson, Chief Financial Officer; Gracie Porter, Metro School Board Chair; Glenda Gregory, Director of Business Services and Dr. Jesse Register, Superintendent of Metro Schools

Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools is now a three-time winner of the Meritorious Budget Award (MBA) presented by the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO) for excellence in budget presentation. This award is conferred only to school districts that have met or exceeded the Meritorious Budget Award criteria. In 2010, Metro Nashville Public Schools made history when it became the first Tennessee school district to earn the Meritorious Budget Award from the Association.

To earn this award, Metro Schools submitted its 2011-2012 budget for a rigorous review based on demanding criteria. Developed by ASBO for school districts, the MBA criteria guide school business officials toward a quality school budget presentation by enhancing the school business officials’ skills in developing, analyzing, and presenting a school system budget.

The award recognizes excellence in school system budget presentation and is given to districts with budgets that

• use sound fiscal management practices,

• promote effective use of educational resources,

• provide clear budget presentations,

• use up-to-date budget practices and

• meet several other criteria.

Congratulations to Chief Financial Officer Chris Henson, Director of Business Services Glenda Gregory, Communications Specialist Noelle Mashburn, and the Metro Office of Management and Budget for their award-winning work on the district’s budget.

Featured in photograph (l to r) is Chris Henson, Chief Financial Officer; Gracie Porter, Metro School Board Chair; Glenda Gregory, Director of Business Services and Dr. Jesse Register, Superintendent of Metro Schools.


In his May 1 State of Metro Address, Mayor Karl Dean announced his proposal to fund $100 million in capital needs for Metro Schools. That would go a long, long way toward helping a number of our schools and communities with needs identified in our Capital Master Plan for 2012-13.

If the Metro Council approves the proposed budget, major projects expected to be funded include:

  • $20 million in renovations at aging Stratford High School

  • A new gym for Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High

  • Purchasing land for new elementary and middle schools in southeast Davidson County

  • Purchasing land adjacent to Julia Green Elementary

  • Renovations and/or expansions at

    • Rose Park Middle

    • Joelton Middle

    • Antioch Middle

    • Oliver Middle

    • AZ Kelley Elementary

    • John Early Middle

    • Norman Binkley

Those are all schools and areas that need attention, but as some of our families have pointed out, they’re not the only ones.

Here in Nashville, the average age of our public school buildings is 42 years old. Sometimes a school is aged and needs renovation. Sometimes it needs to be expanded. And sometimes it’s just not built to support the level of technology or specific programs we need.

Our total capital funding needs for 2012-13 as listed in the Six-year Capital Master Plan come to $185 million. We didn’t expect to get the full amount and we won’t. So how do we decide which projects will be funded?

Short answer: they’re prioritized.

Long answer: All buildings are assessed in a process done by a company outside of MNPS using a software tool that objectively looks at more than 30 components of each building and assigns it a score. District officials then put together a plan based on the needs of existing schools and projected needs for new schools.

The whole idea is to take any one person or group’s point of view out of this decision-making process. It’s done objectively and independently.

And keep in mind capital needs doesn’t just mean buildings. It also means any equipment expected to last for ten years or more, like school buses and technology, and access improvements for people with disabilities.

It’s been two years since Metro Schools received any capital funding and $100 million will go a long way toward improving the district’s infrastructure and our schools. There will always be more to be done – after all, nothing ever stops aging – but we’d be thrilled to receive such an investment.


Last year we spent $674 million educating more than 79,000 students. Every year that number goes up – and not necessarily because we want it to. Inflation hits individuals and organizations alike. We have to pay more for many of the same services we receive year to year.

For 2012-13, the Board of Education has approved a budget increase of more than $48 million over the 2011-12 budget.

So where would it all go? Let’s take a look.

Monday we saw how people are the biggest expense in Metro Schools. Yesterday we looked at a plan that will pay teachers more and help recruit the best new teachers available.

Today we give you a plan to replicate some of the success we've already had in graduating more students and preventing drop outs. And we need your help to make it happen.


We already mentioned the new Cane Ridge Elementary School. That’s an area that needs a new school and will get one no matter what. But we also need new schools for those students who may need a little extra help or a second chance.

No one wants a student to drop out of school. We want every child who enters our schools to leave with a high school diploma. One way in which we’ve made huge strides toward making this happen is with our Academy schools. The Academy at Old Cockrill and the Academy at Hickory Hollow are terrific schools for students who need another option for earning their diploma. They opened three years ago and have since graduated 1,000 students. And they do it at a fraction of the cost of a traditional high school. It’s one reason for the significant rise in our high school graduation rates.

They have been so successful, in fact, that we’d like to open another one. Opry Mills was the original home of the Academy at Hickory Hollow, but the school had to move after the May 2010 flood destroyed the mall. Now that the mall is back open, we’ve been invited to reopen the Academy at Opry Mills. We know a third Academy will turn out as many graduates as the other two. But it requires more teachers, an investment in technology, and supplies. And all of that costs money.

WATCH a news report on Academy successes

Another step in fighting the dropout rate is catching students early, before they get to high school. That’s the idea behind the new Nashville Bridge School proposed in this budget. Bridge would be a place for middle school students who are over aged and under credited, which are warning signs of dropping out. These students would attend Bridge until they get back on track academically.

These are proven strategies to boost the graduation rate. And they’ll do it for less money than traditional schools: $2.1 million. That takes our total increases up to $47.5 million.




SEE the approved budget proposal in its entirety.


Where does the other million in expenses go? Several smaller increases are listed below:

  • Match for Teacher Incentive Fund Grant: $292,000

  • Increase in contract with New Teacher Project: $261,000

  • Increase in contracts for Health Services for school nurses (Red Cross, Metro Health, & Vanderbilt): $398,000

  • Hiring more school translators: $117,400

  • Hiring more parent outreach translators: $165,000

  • Making up for funds in a now-expired grant for Smaller Learning Communities: $198,800

  • Music Makes Us, the collaboration among Mayor Dean, the district and private supporters to improve music education: $540,900

  • Staffing adjustments in various departments: $1,783,000

There are also savings!

  • Staff savings (including changes to pension, FICA savings, and new hires replacing higher paid retirees): $3,632,000

  • Not purchasing new literature textbooks (they must be further studied for compatibility with Common Core Standards): $2,000,000

And when it’s all added together it comes out like this:

  • NEEDED CHANGES: $39,401,200

  • PROPOSED CHANGES: $9,484,300







How can the district get the funding needed? You are the answer. We need your public show of support for fully funding Metro Schools.

Mayor Dean has presented his full budget proposal for Metro Nashville to the Metro Council. In June the Metro Council will vote on a final budget, including funding for schools.

Call and email your Council Member and the five at-large Council Members and ask them to vote for the Mayor’s budget for schools.

List of Metro Council Members

Metro Nashville’s public schools are making strides. Support full funding for education, so schools can continue the journey to success.










Last year we spent $674 million educating more than 79,000 students. Every year that number goes up – and not necessarily because we want it to. Inflation hits individuals and organizations alike. We have to pay more for many of the same services we receive year to year.

For 2012-13, the Board of Education has approved a budget increase of more than $48 million over the 2011-12 budget.

So where would it all go? Let’s take a look.

Yesterday we saw how people are the biggest expense in Metro Schools, and how inflation, raises, and needed new hires account for a huge majority of the requested budget increase. But that's not all of it. We also have some new ideas that will continue the strides we're making. And as usual, it starts with teachers.


No one will argue over the importance of hiring the very best teachers we can find. But that’s actually a lot harder than you think.

Working in an urban school district is not easy. As Director of Schools, Dr. Jesse Register, has said so many times, “We’ll never be the easiest place to work, but we can be the best.” Attracting great teachers to an urban district is tough when a suburban rural district pays more. Currently Metro Schools is ranked 30th in the state in starting teacher pay.

Let that sink in. We are the 2nd largest district in the state, but 29 districts pay teachers more than we do. That has to change.

And we don’t just compete with Tennessee districts for the best teachers; we compete with cities from across the region. Teacher recruiters from Houston have visited Nashville three times this year offering new teachers $44,000 a year.

SEE the approved budget proposal in its entirety.

Under the 2012-13 budget, teachers would start out making $40,000 annually, placing us 3rd in the state and positioning us to hire more of the strongest teachers who have their pick of jobs. That also means current teachers with up to five years’ experience who make less than $40,000 will get bumped up to that level. We’re also proposing changes to teacher pay at the top end, allowing them to reach the top level after just 15 years, not 25.

SEE a list of starting teacher salaries across Tennessee.

These are the kind of dramatic steps that will draw great teachers and college graduates to Metro Nashville Public Schools. Our hiring recruiters are already hearing positive buzz building around our district just at the very mention of a $40,000 starting salary. It must be done if we are to be considered a top destination for the best of the best.

What’s the price tag on this huge step in the right direction? Just under $6 million, bringing us to a total of $45.3 million in additional costs for 2012-13.


Tomorrow we’ll talk about giving more of a very good thing. When a school helps produce more graduates and fewer dropouts, why not open another?




Last year we spent $674 million educating more than 79,000 students. Every year that number goes up – and not necessarily because we want it to. Inflation hits individuals and organizations alike. We have to pay more for many of the same services we receive year to year.

For 2012-13, the Board of Education has approved a budget increase of more than $48 million over the 2011-12 budget. But you may be surprised to learn a huge majority of that increase comes from unavoidable increases. The rest would be dedicated to programs aimed at increasing achievement, bettering our schools, and graduating more students.

So where would it all go? Let’s take a look.


The most expensive part of almost any organization is people. A school district is no exception. Some 80% of our budget goes to people – salaries, insurance, and pensions. Every year the amount of money required to keep those people goes up just a little bit. Insurance costs rise and many employees are eligible for “step” salary increases.

SEE the approved budget proposal in its entirety.

On top of that, the State of Tennessee has passed a 2.5% raise for teachers, and the district pays most of that. This year, we’re also proposing a 2% raise for support employees. These are the bus drivers, school secretaries, cafeteria staff, and many more who have not had a raise since 2008. They deserve one.

This year we’re also opening a new elementary school in Cane Ridge, because of big growth in that area. That requires hiring 13 new employees and boosting maintenance and custodial budgets. Across the district, we expect about 1,700 new students next year, meaning we have to hire new teachers to keep up our teacher-to-student ratios within state law. That’s 100 new teachers. Add to that three more school days next year (which are also more paid days for support staff) and two new charter schools opening. They’re all necessary additions and they all cost money.

So when you add all of that together, where do we stand? Just these needed – and in some cases unavoidable – costs come to an additional $39.4 million for 2012-13. That’s more than 80% of our requested budget increase.


Tomorrow and Wednesday we’ll talk about some of the specific proposals to make our schools even better, including how to turn Nashville into a destination for the very best new teachers in the country.

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