Metro Schools is trying to cut a deal with state education officials over sharing student data. The state says the district is required to turn over information to charter schools that want student info for recruiting purposes. The looming legal dispute highlights a stubborn rift.
The issue isn't entirely about privacy, though the district has cited federal protections for students. It's money. For every child who leaves for a charter school, that's nearly $11,000 in state and local education funding essentially flowing out of district coffers.
"I think that we are at a saturation point. I know we are at a saturation point monetarily," says chairwoman Anna Shepherd. The school board hasn't approved any new charters in roughly two years. With nearly two-dozen in town, she says the district can't afford more.
The specific schools in question were taken over by the state and are now run by a charter operator, LEAD Public Schools. Officials at the department of education have threatened to withhold funding if the district doesn't produce the student information. Education Commissioner Candice McQueen has requested an opinion from the Tennessee Attorney General.
In the meantime, Shepherd is looking for middle ground. She and superintendent Shawn Joseph met with McQueen this week. She offered to have the district send out pamphlets so families know their options.
"MNPS can even pay for it to go out," she says. "And that way we are ensuring that those students have that information and then we don't have to release student data."
Though less likely, Shepherd has agreed to hand over the data if the state's Achievement School District stops taking over schools. In a letter, she said she would also want to talk about subsidies for schools and districts losing students to charters.
Late Friday, McQueen responded in her own letter (view it here). Among other points, she notes that a new state law should result in roughly $1 million for Metro Schools to help defray costs associated with charter schools.