State withholds $3.4 million after charter school dispute - WSMV Channel 4

State withholds $3.4 million after charter school dispute

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The standoff over a charter school vote has officially cost Metro schools millions of dollars.

Metro schools was set to receive its monthly payment from the state today, but the Tennessee Department of Education decided to withhold $3.4 million portion of the deposit after the school board's rejection of Great Heart Academies.

In a letter obtained by Channel 4 News, State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman told school board chair Cheryl Mayes that neither side has changed its position on the vote, so there wouldn't be any change in the decision to withhold funding.

"We were disappointed to learn around noon today that the Tennessee Department of Education has refused to reconsider its decision to withhold nearly $3.4 million in taxpayer funding designated for the education of more than 81,000 students in Metro Nashville Public Schools," said a statement released by the school system.

The funding is 10 percent of the state's annual "non-instructional" funding for Nashville's children.

Huffman maintains that the board violated state law in rejecting Great Hearts and as a punishment, they're withholding the $3.4 million payment.

"We are concerned about the effect of this reduction and how we will address this shortfall in the middle of the school year," read the statement. "We intend to be good stewards of the public money and to make thoughtful, deliberate decisions in an effort to minimize the penalty's effect on the children in our schools."

The system said the $3.4 million reduction is significant and raises concerns about how the amount was determined and whether it is consistent with other penalties assessed by the state.

The school system also reported there is no hiring freeze, contrary to some media reports.

"The district has the means to meet its current financial obligations and the Board of Education will determine where to make the budget reductions by the end of the fiscal year," read the statement.

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