"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, September 18, 2015

School Board Member Lays Out Cost of Charter Expansion

Recently the school board of Metro Nashville rejected three new charter applications.  Will Pinkston was one of those thoughtful and responsible school board members who voted with his constituents' interests in mind, rather than with the segregating ideologies of corporate education reform schoolers.

Here is Pinkston's recent op-ed in the Tennessean, which lays out his rationale for supporting public school children over corporate interests:

Recently, outgoing Mayor Karl Dean penned an op-ed in the Tennessean applauding the successes of a student and a charter school, KIPP Nashville.
I share his enthusiasm in congratulating the family and the school.
Now, let's discuss the 76,000 students and 5,500 teachers in Metro Nashville Public School Students (MNPS) who aren't in charter schools, but also deserve our support. MNPS is ranked 54th out of 67 urban school systems in America in per-pupil funding.
Due in part to inadequate state funding, we trail school systems in Atlanta, Charlotte and Louisville, among others.
Meanwhile, multiple studies — including an independent audit commissioned by the mayor and Metro Council — found that the unchecked proliferation of publicly funded, privately run charter schools is having a negative fiscal impact on existing schools at a time when the school system is turning around academically.
The MNPS charter pipeline — the number of charter seats not yet created but scheduled to come into existence under previously approved applications — now stands at 8,157 seats. That doesn't include the 8,112 seats that already exist in Nashville's 27 charter schools.
Put differently: The city's charter sector will double over the next few years, even if the Nashville School Board takes no further action.
And as state and local funding is redirected from MNPS to charters, our under-resourced existing schools will be further strained. Based in part on this negative fiscal impact, and the glut of yet-to-be-filled seats in the pipeline, the school board in August voted to slow down charter growth by denying two new applications from charter operator KIPP.
The operator now is threatening to appeal the decision to the State Board of Education to try to force the schools into existence.
The school board took a fiscally conservative position. With 8,157 seats currently in the charter pipeline — including more than 1,000 yet-to-be-filed seats belonging to KIPP — that's a total future annual cash outlay of $77.5 million.
What KIPP wants to do — expand the pipeline to more than 9,000 seats — would take our future annual cash outlays up to $85.5 million. None of this includes the $73 million in annual cash outlays for charter seats that already exist.
Even if the school board takes no further action, the annual cost of charter schools soon will exceed the combined price tag of the new Nashville Sounds baseball stadium and the new downtown riverfront amphitheater.
The only difference is the stadium and amphitheater are, for the most part, one-time capital expenses. When it comes to these thousands upon thousands of yet-to-be-filled charter seats, the ever-expanding bill will come due every year.
Any reasonable person must conclude that charter growth in Nashville is out of control. Moody's Investors Service, which rates the health of municipal finances, warned that charter schools pose "growing risks" for urban school systems.
Public opinion surveys show Nashville taxpayers are OK with having some charters. But they believe unchecked growth has gone too far and threatens to undermine improvement elsewhere in the school system. And they're right.
Family demand should be a bigger factor in these discussions. Most charters actually have minimal waiting lists. Meanwhile, our pre-kindergarten programs, magnet schools, Montessori schools and other schools and programs have thousands of kids stuck on waiting lists.
If we keep diverting large amounts of new revenue to charters, MNPS will never be able to work down those long waiting lists. And if we continue unchecked charter growth, we're not just undermining existing schools and programs due to the negative fiscal impact — we're denying student demand where it actually exists.
When it comes to students on pre-K waiting lists, students who need early grade reading intervention, English learners who need structured interventions: Charter advocates want us to tell them, "Get in line behind KIPP. You'll get yours, but only after KIPP gets theirs."
Personally, I don't think that's fair. Nashville's students and families deserve a balanced approach to expanding educational opportunities.
Will Pinkston represents South Nashville on the Metro Board of Public Education.

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