That’s the argument advanced by MNPS School Board member Will Pinkston in a recent column in the Tennessean.
Pinkston uses an array of figures to make his case. He essentially reiterates research that suggests that charters typically perform on par with public schools and then notes they carry significant costs to the district. So, he says, we can either have unabated charter growth OR well-funded district schools, not both. If we choose the path of charters, it will mean closing traditional public schools.
Here are some highlights:
The push to dismantle public education in Nashville is running amok. Consider that in 2010, the entire state of Tennessee had just 20 charter schools. Later this year, in Nashville alone, 27 charter schools will operate at an annual cost of $75 million.
Even if the Nashville School board approves no new charter applications, more than 5,000 additional charter seats — costing $45 million a year — will come into existence by fall 2019 under current agreements. Yet charter operators still are seeking to create another 13 schools that would drain another $75 million a year from the school system.
To put it in perspective: This spring, MNPS is proposing to grow its annual operating budget from $790 million to $813 million — a $23 million increase. Not coincidentally, the budget plan contemplates about $23 million in additional cash outlays for charter schools.
In other words: Every dime of new revenue growth is going to charters, leaving little or nothing for traditional schools. The math is dizzying and troubling.
Pinkston makes a powerful argument: Nashville has to make a choice. More charters eating the growth of the MNPS budget, or a recommitment to supporting and improving the traditional public schools.
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