A program Metro Nashville Public Schools credits with helping reducing its number of suspensions could be cut as the school board ponders a proposed $670.5 million budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year.
The Twilight Program, implemented last academic year, allows students who commit disciplinary offenses to replace suspension days with their attendance at after-school classrooms. Offered at nine middle and 12 high schools, the program prevented 1,535 suspensions last year alone, according to school officials.
Director of Schools Jesse Register said the program is made by possible by approximately $900,000 in annual state dollars. The district is still waiting to find out the level of state funding for next year.
“It’s just an unknown,” Register said of potentially losing the program. “We hope the state will continue to fund this. It’s a really important program to us. It employs teachers. It gives additional pay to teachers to do this.
“If we lose the state funding, we’ll certainly try to keep it with local funds, but that’s an unknown too,” he said.
There are plenty of unknowns one week before a March 10 public hearing on a school budget that would represent a $37 million increase compared to the budget of the current fiscal year.
Metro school officials still haven’t seen local property and sales tax revenue figures. Hence, once the district matches the proposed expenditures with actual revenue projections, cuts in some form or fashion appear likely. Complicating the matter is $30 million in revenue the district is losing thanks to depleted stimulus dollars.
“I think the greatest concern that we have is our federal budget,” Register said. “We’re losing jobs money and we’re losing stimulus money. We’ve used that up. So, we’re going to really have to work with staffing. I think that’s the biggest challenge we face now.”
School board members met Wednesday night to discuss the proposed budget. A final budget draft is to go before the board March 22 for a vote.
Mayor Karl Dean has scheduled a Metro schools budget hearing for March 31 at 3 p.m.