Some Nashville residents are calling on the city council to increase funding for Gideon’s Army and for the support staff within Metro Nashville Public Schools. They’re also asking officials to expand the role that residents play in the budget process.
They took to the mic for three hours on Tuesday night to address the Metro Council at the Music City Center. The meeting happens partway into the budgeting process at the moment when councilmembers are thinking about making adjustments to what the mayor proposed.
Residents like DonTrell Spencer showed up to last night’s city council meeting advocating for the group Gideon’s Army to get a million-dollar increase. The group works to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline in historically Black North Nashville.
“Since Gideon’s Army came here to Cumberland View [public housing complex], there has been a lot of changes being made,” he says. “I can actually see my brothers go outside and play safe.”
After speaking, Spencer was embraced with a comforting shoulder pat from a Gideon’s Army staffer.
A demand to decrease funding for the police department and jails carried over from last year, with some calling for that money to be re-routed to affordable housing and social services. That’s consistent with a push last year, though commenters didn’t express as much urgency as last summer.
There have been recent killings by police in Nashville, but the national conversation has shifted since protests against social justice swept the globe. This year, most of the policing increase proposed by the mayor would go to staffing a new South Nashville police precinct.
MNPS funding gets recognition
Nashville residents are applauding the mayor’s proposal to fully fund the local school district. But the praise doesn’t come without one suggested change last night.
A crowd of purple-shirted local union supporters and residents are calling for the school system’s hourly support staff to get seven more paid days of work each year. The local SEIU union says teachers get 201 calendar days and are on salaries while support staff are paid hourly and work only 194 days. This difference impacts workers ability to be paid when they aren’t needed.
“I want to be able to make sure I clothe my child and educate my child, and buy him the supplemental materials that he needs to be successful,” says Honey Hereth, who has worked in classrooms as support staff for more than two decades.
The city council will start working on their amendments to the budget on Thursday, and they must finalize the plan before the end of the month.
Residents want larger role
Several speakers pointed out that the public hearing isn’t a large enough role for the people paying and using the city services.
And those like teacher Cassie Norton weren’t happy that residents had to show up in person at the Music City Center.
“And after the historic participation of last year, when some of us like myself were here until 4 in the morning to give you our thoughts,” she says, “you decided to move the location and cut the call-in option.”
The council met at the convention center to allow for social distancing but will return to the courthouse in two weeks.
One Metro proposal would allow North Nashville residents in the 37208 ZIP code to decide how they want to spend a chunk of money for infrastructure in their neighborhood. Outside of that, residents mostly voice their concerns directly to district councilmembers or the mayor.
The council will have public work sessions over the next two weeks, but it isn’t clear if those will be accessible in different languages.