Report Finds Charters Have ‘Negative Fiscal Impact’ On Nashville District Schools

The new school sits on Dickerson Pike, but it faces the side street. One parent said they were glad since across Dickerson Pike is an adult bookstore. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN

Rocketship opened a school on Dickerson Pike this year and has already been approved to open a second on Nolensville Pike next year. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN

“Charter schools will – with nearly 100 percent certainty – have a negative fiscal impact on Metro Schools.” That’s a direct quote from a study ordered by the board of education, confirming the views of several charter skeptics on the panel.

Public schools in Nashville get roughly $9,000 per student. So when one leaves a traditional school for a charter, that’s money walking out the door. And when they go, consulting firm MGT of America finds that educating the remaining students doesn’t get that much cheaper. In fact, with more than two-dozen charters the 2015-2016 school year, the report says the district has reached a “tipping point.”

The report echoes board member Will Pinkston, who is the budget committee chairman. He has tried and failed in recent weeks to limit new charters to be used only for overcrowding and converting low-performing schools.

“The reality is we cannot continue adding schools of any type – charter schools, traditional schools, magnet schools – at an unabated rate without it having significant costs and having a significant destabilizing force to the budget,” Pinkston says.

But charter school boosters don’t buy the doom and gloom.

A statement from the Tennessee Charter School Center calls the MGT report “disappointing, but not really surprising.” The organization says more energy should be spent learning from high performing charters instead of trying to limit their growth.

Key Takeaways From MGT Report

  • Charter school enrollment in Nashville totals 5,665, expected to grow by nearly 50 percent next year
  • By 2020, charter enrollment estimated to approach 14,000 – a 1,200 percent increase from 2010
  • MNPS spends roughly $500,000 on direct costs associated with charters, like managing student data
  • MNPS also incurs indirect costs from charters, like managing retirement plans for teachers
  • MGT recommends setting up a “Charter School Fund” to itemize indirect costs
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