Nashville suing state for more school funding, too

The Metro Nashville Public Schools board voted Tuesday evening to sue the state for a greater share of education funding, reports The Tennessean. Members said Tennessee is not providing enough money to help teach English to children for whom it is a second language.

The board approved the lawsuit, with six members in favor and two — Elissa Kim and Mary Pierce — abstaining. Board member Jo Ann Brannon was unable to attend the meeting.

The subject of suing the state for education funds has been a topic for the past year, and the issue came to a head after Metro Law Director Jon Cooper sent a letter June 1 asking the state why Nashville received less money for its English language learners, or ELL, this year.

In a June 3 response, Maryanne Durski, the Tennessee Department of Education’s local finance office director, notified Cooper that the funding allocation through the fiscal year general appropriations act provided adequate funds.

Board Vice Chairwoman Anna Shepherd said the letter was the last straw for her.

“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, who has advocated to sue the state for the past year, said Nashville schools have the highest ELL population in the state and the district has a unique opportunity to teach those students.

“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. “Local taxpayers are doing our part, and the state Department of Education sends us a blow-off letter.”

…With the district suing the state for education funding, it joins Shelby County Schools and seven Hamilton County-area districts in their pursuit of more Basic Education Program funds.