School administrators are in the process of presenting their proposed 2019-2020 budget to the Metro School Board.
The proposal totals $918 million, which is a $31.7 million increase from last year’s budget.
“Last year, we cut $15 million from our budget, and that’s hard when you’re an underfunded school district,” explained Dr. Sean Joseph, Metro’s Director of Schools. “This, to me, is a back-to-the-basics, strengthening-the-core budget.”
The biggest contributor to the increase is a proposed three-percent pay raise for all employees, including teachers.
“Teachers are the most important aspect of the school district, and so we want to be able to recruit and retain the best teachers,” said MNPs Chief Operating Officer Chris Henson. “A part of that is pay, and a part of living in Nashville is increased compensation just based on the increases in the cost of living.”
The budget also includes additional funding for social-emotional learning initiatives, which Dr. Joseph says will help cut down on juvenile crime.
“The best way to make sure our kids are safe is to make sure their mental health needs are taken care of, and that’s why we’ve been a leader in the country looking at social-emotional learning,” Joseph told News 2 in an interview on Tuesday.
However, the budget also includes cutting 11 administrative positions. These are not teaching positions, but the vacancies will not be filled in the future.
“We’re tightening our belt even though we need them,” Dr. Joseph explained. “My first thought is always how do we take care of our kids, [how do] we take care of our employees, and how do we take care of the people in our school?”
The budget also includes funding for more textbooks, pre-kindergarten classes, and upgrades to the district’s Human Resources and Finance systems.
Bus drivers and monitors would also receive a $1/hour raise to help alleviate a driver shortage in the district right now.
And if a driver calls out sick, Henson said, oftentimes buses will be late. The budget would also include an attendance budget for drivers, giving them more incentive to come to work.
School administrators call this new budget a “modest” increase — as it is only a 3.6-percent increase from last year.
There will be school board hearings on the budget coming up. The board will approve or deny the budget at their April 9 meeting. Then the budget will go to the Mayor for final approval, but it will be up to Metro Council to fund the budget.
The school district hopes to have Council’s stamp of approval by May 1.