Investing in Success at MNPS

Investing in Success at MNPS
Posted on 04/26/2023
Board Room Gavel

It is budget season for Metro Nashville Public Schools, which is a time for reflecting on what is working well, identifying areas for improvement, and ensuring that we allocate funding to the programs and people necessary to ensure student success.

On April 11, the Board of Education adopted a budget proposal that provides a transparent view to stakeholders, including Board members, Metro Government, and the community, about the costs of continuing operations at a "status quo" level. The approach also includes aspirational budget requests from parents, teachers, staff, and community members that aim to increase and improve the services offered to students and families.

The continuity of operations budget serves as the foundation of the budget package. It includes the costs of maintaining the same level of service from year to year, including inflationary expenses, mandatory costs, and step increases for employees, to ensure that we can move from year to year without needing to cut staff or services. This budget also accounts for various price increases calculated from other state and local entities, some of which will not be known until later in the year. Additionally, it includes mandatory increases in charter spending and step increases for certificated and support staff to ensure that they continue to move along the pay scale. The continuity of operations budget represents an approximately 5% inflationary increase compared to the current FY2022-23 budget, which is in effect through June 30, 2023. 

Following the continuity of operations budget is the aspirational budget, which offers a menu of options that the Board, the Mayor, and the Metro Council can choose to fund in addition to our basic needs. These options are based on four Board budget priorities:

  • Employee Compensation
  • Continuity of Federally Funded Initiatives
  • Academic and Social-Emotional Learning Integration
  • Operational Improvements and School Support

Employee Compensation

Central to our success as a district are the teachers and staff who work tirelessly to provide a great education to all students in a safe and enjoyable school environment. Last year, Metro Schools received approximately $88 million in new funds from Mayor Cooper and the Metro Council that allowed for a support staff upgrade focused on raising the wages for all staff, with a particular focus on hard-to-fill roles such as transportation, nutrition services, and paraprofessionals, in addition to pay increases for teachers and a new paid family leave policy. 

This was part of a three-year employee compensation improvement plan that sought to correct several years of fiscal neglect towards MNPS. In this budget, a key focus is on correcting pay for principals, assistant principals, and other certificated administrators to ensure the district remains competitive with other school districts in order to retain and recruit great school leaders. 

The Employee Compensation aspirational budget includes other items that have been requested throughout the years, such as longevity pay, recruitment bonuses, and a paid Veterans Day. 

Continuity of Federally Funded Initiatives

MNPS has benefited from several new federal grants and programs designed to help school districts respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Continuity of Federally Funded Initiatives budget category includes the items the district has identified that will need additional funding in the future to maintain those services. This includes a time limit on spending these ESSER funds, which run through September of 2024. After that, the district will need to secure state or local funding to continue those services. Programs that have been funded through ESSER include our summer learning initiative called Promising Scholars, mental health services, computer technology to ensure every student has a laptop, no-cost meals for students, and much more. 

Academic and Social-Emotional Learning Integration

Improving the focused outcomes of students in the areas of literacy, numeracy, and social-emotional learning is the driving force behind the work of our schools and the district as a whole. The Academic and Social-Emotional Learning Integration budget category includes additional items that are not currently funded but could further improve our level of service to students.

One of the top priorities is ensuring students are well-served when there are teacher vacancies and absences. To provide a more effective solution to school staff absences, MNPS created classroom associates, a permanent, school-based position that the district funds for all schools. These are currently called general school assistants. The job duties for this position are flexible by design. They cover classrooms when a teacher is absent for a short-term or long-term need. When classrooms are fully staffed, they can monitor lunch duty, sit at the front desk, assist with family outreach, or support any other administrative task. Dr. Battle has significantly increased the number of these positions at each school through the budget, as well as increasing pay to help retain and recruit these staff members. 

Operational Improvements and School Support

Operational Improvements and School Support are essential to ensuring students arrive on time, that they have access to the internet and technology, and that we can hire and staff our schools. District services help to ensure that we can maintain strong school operations, and this requires new investments that will boost the quality of services we provide to students, staff, and the families of MNPS. Items in the budget include professional learning opportunities for teachers and staff so they can advance in their profession and learn new skills to support students, transportation enhancements to better track and route buses while providing for additional customer service support, and increasing the level of recruitment of new teachers to have a strong, diverse talent pool to educate our students. 

You can learn more about this budget process and see what is in the aspirational budget proposal by watching this Budget Committee meeting from March 28. 

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