The Metro Nashville Public School Board approved an operating budget Monday for the 2018-19 school year.
In a 7-2 vote, the district made cuts to a reading program while increasing employee raises and reinstating seven social worker positions that were proposed to be cut.
In a last-minute change to the budget, the district cut Reading Recovery, a short-term literacy program for students who are behind in reading. The program costs the district about $7.2 million annually and an external review found that students did not retain the information, despite showing improvement at the beginning of the program.
Director Shawn Joseph wants to place the 86 Reading Recovery program teachers into 21 of the district's lowest-performing schools as teachers or in administrative roles.
“I’m proposing a new system for Reading Recovery that validates the expertise of these extraordinary teachers that do miracle work for our children,” Joseph said.
Board members Amy Frogge and Jill Speering disagreed with Joseph’s plan to cut Reading Recovery, saying that his plan is in retaliation for Speering’s call for an audit of his spending.
“It seems pretty clear that the decision to do away entirely with Reading Recovery and to cut 86 careers is retaliatory,” Frogge said.
Joseph responded to Frogge that cutting Reading Recovery is not a retaliation but that studies show the program isn’t working as expected.
"This has nothing to do with retaliation … I care about kids too much to care about a person’s affiliation to the program,” Joseph said. “We have studies that say we’re not getting return on investment (of Reading Recovery).”
Other last-minute budget revisions include a 2.5 percent raise for employees, as opposed to the 2 percent raise previously offered. The new budget also keeps the seven social worker positions originally proposed to be cut.
The district-wide free lunch program expected to be scaled back will now keep more schools under the program, Joseph said.
The state has allowed the district to group certain schools together, meaning 120 schools will remain in the free lunch program. Students in the the remaining 28 schools can receive free or reduced lunch, if eligible.
The board will present its budget to Mayor David Briley at 9 a.m. Wednesday. The budget must be approved by Metro Council.
You can find more about the operating budget here.