By Freda Player-Peters
Nashville, like many other cities around the world, is currently reeling from the economic toll due to the necessary stay-at-home orders enacted to contain the spread of COVID-19. Schools and non-essential businesses are closed, our downtown streets are bare, and our favorite local restaurants are open only for takeout and delivery. What is the net result? A projected $200 million to $300 million shortfall in expected taxes and revenue for this fiscal year.
Metro government must make adjustments to the already tightly stretched budget due to the economic impact of this virus. Metro departments, authorities, and schools are preparing for this harsh impact. I humbly ask the Mayor’s office to truly “look under every rock” as he stated in his State of Metro Address before we asked MNPS to prepare to find $100 million budget savings for this fiscal year. Metro Schools needs to be that “last rock”. We, the adults, need to bear the brunt of this economic impact – not our students. I believe schools should be the last Metro entity to forfeit $100 million of this valuable, necessary revenue.
Our students, teachers and staff have already and continue to endure difficult uncertainty and made tremendous sacrifices and efforts to get through this school year. I know the incredible work our students have done to quickly adapt to continue their education – first after the damage of the tornadoes and now this on-going pandemic.
Metro Nashville Public Schools currently serve over 85,000 students in the county. Last year, the district’s graduation rate increased by 2% in a single academic year. In particular, Black and Hispanic students made significant gains during the 2018-2019 school year. Bolstering the progress of minority students has become increasingly essential as MNPS becomes more diverse. My colleagues and I take the responsibility of improving student success while being mindful of the stewardship of taxpayers’ dollars very seriously.
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, MNPS has continued to support students by distributing food and laptops. In these times, our students and staff have taken extraordinary measures to navigate this unusual, unpredictable and challenging educational environment. We cannot afford to ask our school community to forgo valuable funding, until it truly becomes the measure of last resort.