Tuesday, March 9, 2010

30 on council ask mayor to file suit over school funds

By Chas Sisk • THE TENNESSEAN • March 9, 2010 Three-quarters of the Metro Council is calling on Mayor Karl Dean to file suit to fight what they describe as unfairness in the way the state allocates school funds. A letter signed by 30 members of the Metro Council formally asked Monday for the Dean administration to challenge the state's Basic Education Program for school funding. The group said Metro Nashville receives about $1,100 less per pupil than the state average. "Williamson County gets more dollars from the state to educate their students than Davidson County despite the challenging population that we have to educate," said council member Eric Crafton. Davidson County's state allocation of $3,027 per student is the fourth-lowest in the state, despite having the most English language learners and the second-biggest population of at-risk students, said the letter, which also went to Metro legal director Sue Cain. Second challenge A spokeswoman for the Department of Education declined to comment on the possibility of a lawsuit but noted that funding for counties that have high numbers of English language learners and at-risk students was increased three years ago. The request is the latest Metro Council challenge to the BEP, the formula the state uses to distribute money to its public schools. Crafton and others who support the challenge, including council members Jim Gotto and Michael Craddock, say the formula is skewed to give more money to rural counties. Crafton, Gotto and Craddock, who are term-limited on the council, are all running for other local or state offices this year. Last summer, the council called on state lawmakers to pass a bill equalizing funds. Council members said they dropped that effort because they lacked the votes in the legislature to push through a new formula. A spokeswoman for Dean said Metro's law department would review the letter and advise him on whether a suit is worthwhile. Only the mayor's office can file a lawsuit on behalf of the city.

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