Last night, the Nashville School Board — in a move to support students and protect local taxpayers — voted to sue the State of Tennessee over inadequate education funding. I was among the six members who voted in favor of litigation. Two abstained from voting. No one voted against.
This decision was the option of last resort, and the culmination of years of deliberations that brought us to this simple conclusion: On his own, the Governor is not going to help Nashville.
On its own, the rural majority in the legislature is not going to help Nashville. So when the executive branch fails us, and the rural majority in the legislative branch fails us, the only place left to go is the judicial branch, which hopefully will (as it has done in the past) compel relief.
Here are the facts: By the state’s own admission, the Basic Education Program is underfunded by $500 million. The real number is probably closer to $1 billion.
Meanwhile: At a time of record state revenue surpluses, the Governor has refused to invest significant new dollars in education — while at the same time forcing unfunded mandates on local taxpayers.
We are not alone in going to court. Shelby County Schools is in court already, along with Hamilton County Schools and six other school systems. We are entering into the legal dialogue through the specific issue of underfunded services for English learners, who account for 43% of students in the schools that I represent in South + Southeast Nashville. But I predict litigation ultimately will veer into a multitude of other underfunded areas.
Bottom line: Nashville is ranked 54th out of 67 large urban school systems in America when it comes to per-pupil funding — and this is the direct result of inadequate state funding.
Litigation is a complex conversation that will take a while to play out. But as Mayor Barry told the Nashville Scene, the school board should use “every tool available” to us to support students and protect local taxpayers. Please let me know if you have questions or need more information.
Editor’s Note: Will Pinkston, who represents District 7 of the Metropolitan Public Schools Board of Education, posted the update above on various boards Wednesday and gave AntiochTenn.com permission to reprint it. His district includes part of Antioch.