Only five Nashvillians took part Thursday night at the school board’s public hearing on Metro Nashville Public Schools proposed $670.5 million budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year.
The low turnout wasn’t a surprise, as the schools’ budget at the local level isn’t contentious.
“We didn’t have anything real controversial in there,” MNPS Director of Schools Jesse Register said. “Of course, last year we made a recommendation and approved outsourcing custodian services. We didn’t have a recommendation like that this year.”
The real “pressure,” as Register has repeatedly called it, is in the federal budget, which the school board can’t control. The district stands to lose $30 million in federal stimulus dollars and another $7 million in federal jobs money.
That reality means a net loss of 430 school positions, among other programs and items, for next year, a projected 80 to 100 that are classroom teaching positions. The figures, which are still preliminary, take into account a gain of 128.5 positions outlined in the local budget.
Among those hit the hardest from the vanishing federal funds are special education workers and instructional coaches, two groups that schools officials say have provided an important boost to the district.
The loss of positions is different than actual layoffs, with school officials hoping job attrition and retirement can minimize the number of workers who lose jobs.
Citizens who showed up Thursday touched on a handful of topics, including ENCORE, the program geared for academically gifted children, as well as the district’s Reading Recovery program. An elementary school principal offered his support for Register’s plan to adopt a full 12-month calendar for elementary principals. Doug Collier, president of the local SEIU chapter, relayed the union’s satisfaction that support staff, unlike last year, will go unchanged.
Following the public hearing, the board’s budget and finance committee approved the budget, meaning it’s set to go before the full school board on a vote March 22.
Mayor Karl Dean has organized a budget hearing with the school board for March 31 when he and his administration will likely say whether they can fully fund the district’s $670.5 million request.
“If it’s not fully funded, then the board would come back together and look at different alternatives,” said Chris Henson, the district’s finance director.