State withholding more than $3M from Metro schools - WSMV News 4

State withholding more than $3M from Metro schools

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Metro Nashville Public Schools won't have access to about $3.4 million of "non-classroom, administrative funding" after the state said the district refused to follow state law.

The state said Tuesday they made the decision after the Metro School Board's refused to follow Tennessee's charter school law in its meetings on Aug. 14 and Sept. 11.

Great Hearts Academies had wanted to open five charter schools in Metro, starting with a west Nashville location. However, its application was denied repeatedly by the school board even after the state had mandated they approve.

"When a state board decides, 'we're just going to violate the law because we feel like it,' that's when we have to take action," said Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman.

The state will withhold next month's administrative payment to Metro Schools as punishment for its decision. That's part of the taxpayer money the state gives to local school districts to help with basic costs.

"Our action addressed as much as possible, keeping it away from the students," said Gov. Bill Haslam.

While Metro Schools officials didn't comment on camera, they did issue a statement, saying the loss of funding is disappointing, disruptive and will absolutely effect students.

Mayor Karl Dean was a strong supporter of Great Hearts, and now he sees a lose-lose situation for kids in Nashville.

"They said there would be consequences, and there are consequences. The thing we need to be fixated on is, 'what's good for the kids of Davidson County?' The Great Hearts school would have been good for them, and it's not good to lose funds that are helping run our school system," Dean said. "I'm hoping there will be a certain sense of responsibility here."

Metro Schools leaders said they don't have a plan yet on how to deal with this mid-year funding cut.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said in a news release he supported the state's decision to withhold the funding.

"The Metro Nashville school board's brazen defiance of state law limited options for thousands of Nashville parents and their children," Ramsey said. "The rule of law is not optional in Tennessee. Those who break it must be held accountable."

The state said they will use the $3.4 million in other Tennessee school districts.

Below is the full statement from Metro Schools regarding the decision:

"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."

Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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