As Race To The Top Money Dries Up, Tennessee’s Achievement School District Forced To Find New Funding
Aspire is a charter school in Memphis that is part of the Achievement School District. The ASD has 23 schools for the 2014-15 school year. Five are directly run by the district. The rest are run by charter organizations. Brick Church College Prep is the only ASD school in Nashville. The rest are in Memphis. Credit: TN Photo Services

As Race To The Top Money Dries Up, Tennessee’s Achievement School District Forced To Find New Funding

Aspire is a charter school in Memphis that is part of the Achievement School District. The ASD has 23 schools for the 2014-15 school year. Five are directly run by the district. The rest are run by charter organizations. Brick Church College Prep is the only ASD school in Nashville. The rest are in Memphis. Credit: TN Photo Services
Aspire is a charter school in Memphis that is part of the Achievement School District. The ASD has 23 schools for the 2014-15 school year. Five are directly run by the district. The rest are run by charter organizations. Brick Church College Prep is the only ASD school in Nashville. The rest are in Memphis. Credit: TN Photo Services

The agency charged with turning around Tennessee’s lowest performing schools has to find new funding. The Achievement School District was born in 2010 out of the Race to the Top program. All of that prize money will be gone next year.

School districts get state funds based on how many students they have. The ASD is no different. But until now, it had the advantage of passing all that money to its struggling schools because central office expenses were covered by the big federal grant. With that money leaving, the distric plans to hold on to some of the state’s per-pupil money, effectively forcing the schools to make do with less.

“We think they can,” Barbic says. “I mean, it’s hard. It’s hard for every school.”

Barbic says he expects to fund the ASD central office of 30 employees with two to three percent of the student funding. For comparison, Metro Schools in Nashville uses four to 4.5 percent of per-pupil money for its central office.

The ASD has always prided itself on letting its schools – which are mostly charters – operate with autonomy, but Barbic says there is still a need for administration.

“It does require a central office. But it requires a much smaller district office,” Barbic says. “I think if you were talking to any superintendent in the state or country, making this work on the public dollar is a challenge. There’s no question about that. What we’ve tried to do is be as efficient as we possibly can.”

Blake Farmer

Blake Farmer is WPLN's assistant news director, but he wears many hats - reporter, editor and host. He covers the Tennessee state capitol while also keeping an eye on Fort Campbell and business trends, frequently contributing to national programs. Born in Tennessee and educated in Texas, Blake has called Nashville home for most of his life.
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