The Metro Nashville school board is again saying no to more charter schools. Local school officials opted against adding more than 3,000 new charter seats in the district during a vote Tuesday evening.
While the district didn’t make an official recommendation to the board on the five charter school applications — Nashville Collegiate Prep, Ivy Prep Academy and three KIPP Nashville schools — the board cited fiscal impact concerns and the district’s evaluations of the proposed charters as reasons for the denials.
Each of the proposed charter schools failed to fully meet the district’s performance standards, members said.
“We have a limited pool of funds. We’re now looking at cutting that pool quite a bit … our budgetary future is uncertain,” said Amy Frogge, school board member for Bellevue and West Nashville.
Earlier this month, Nashville Mayor John Cooper asked the district to cut $100 million from its budget — due to a loss of city revenue because of the coronavirus.
The district has since sliced its private custodial contract by 9% — saving $2 million through the end of the year — but it’s unclear when larger cuts will be made.
“We have a pretty clear choice to make. We have to prioritize where those funds go. We can choose to open charter seats or we can choose to pay our teachers and our staff members,” said Frogge.
Frogge has been a longtime time critic of charter schools, stating that they take away learning opportunities for students in traditional schools.
Meanwhile, charter school advocates say that they can actually increase the quality of education in Metro schools.
“The track record for charter schools has been quite strong. In general, they represent some of the highest performing public schools in the district,” said Maya Bugg, CEO of the Tennessee Charter School Center.
Some board members did acknowledge KIPP Nashville for its positive reputation in Davidson County, but still decided against voting in favor of the charter network amid the financial uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic is projected to reduce city tax revenues by $472 million, according to a budget presentation on Tuesday. The mayor’s budget proposal dramatically reduces Metro spending in areas other than the school district and seeks a 32% property tax increase.
The proposed charter schools have 30 days to amend their applications for reconsideration. They are also permitted by the Tennessee Department of Education to appeal the decision with the State Board of Education, if denied for a second time.