The Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools board has voted to sue Tennessee for a greater share in education funding.
The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/1Uc6UAY ) reports the board approved the lawsuit Tuesday night.
The issue began after Metropolitan Law Director Jon Cooper asked the state why Nashville received less money for its English language learners this year. Maryanne Durski, the Tennessee Department of Education’s local finance office director, replied that the funding allocation through the fiscal year general appropriations act provided adequate funds.
Board Vice Chairwoman Anna Shepherd called the state’s response the last straw.
“This is state law, and they are just being flippant about it,” she said. “And I don’t think this is a flippant topic.”
Board member Will Pinkston says the district has the highest population of English language learners and says the state has an opportunity to teach them.
“The idea that these schools – which literally sit in the shadow of the state Capitol – are getting intentionally short-shrifted by the state is frankly maddening,” he said.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters Wednesday that he was disappointed to hear of the plans for a lawsuit, especially as a new superintendent for Nashville schools could help reboot relations with the state Education Department.
“This was the exact wrong time to do something like this, to use money that could be used to go to schools, to go serve students, to be used to file a lawsuit,” he said.
The governor said his administration has significantly increased school funding in recent years. Metro Nashville schools are the “primary beneficiary” of English language learning funds, he said.
“It just feels like either someone hasn’t really dug into the budget, or they’re not working hard to make the relationship everything it could be,” Haslam said.
Nashville wouldn’t be the first to seek a legal intervention over school funding. School districts in seven Chattanooga-area counties are suing the state on claims they aren’t receiving enough money through the state funding formula to educate their students. If they win, the solution could cost the state more than $500 million a year.
The school districts involved in that lawsuit are in Bradley, Coffee, Grundy, Hamilton, Marion, McMinn and Polk counties.