Now or Later

To whom it should concern:

I write to you as a way to express my frustration, and because what has recently occurred in Nashville should concern you.

The operating budget for the 2018-2019 school year of Metro Nashville Public Schools is not only insufficient, it is embarrassing. Metro Council voted against a small tax increase that would have provided nearly adequate funds for running a school system honorably. Note that I said, “nearly adequate,” because even the budget originally offered by our Director of Schools and eventually passed by our school board did not appropriately (request) the actual monies that would support our students enough to truly “exceed expectations,” the motto of our district.

What did pass was a travesty. Teachers, who have long been promised meaningful wage increases in an attempt to keep up with Nashville’s skyrocketing cost of living, were denied any wage or step-increases at all. For those who are perhaps unfamiliar with the terminology, a ‘step increase’ refers to a raise an individual gets for having stayed another year (or reached another, similar longevity step) in the district. For example, a teacher going into her 5th year in Metro was expecting about a 2% raise for next year. Education professionals in Nashville do not otherwise get a raise. We have no across-the-board performance-related wage increases. Our boss cannot just give us a promotion if we’ve done a good job as in the private sector. In order to get a promotion, teachers and other educators must almost always leave the classroom. So the most talented teachers end up farther and farther away from kids. (Because that makes sense).

Teachers were also denied a cost-of-living raise. On one occasion this budget season, Metro Council bounced around the idea of a 1% or 2% COL raise, which is so ineffectual it is laughable. The cost of living in Nashville has increased around 15% in the last decade, although reports vary widely as to the actual number. So while living in this wonderful city (and I don’t mean that sarcastically, I love living in Nashville) has gotten more expensive, wages for educators and other government workers have stagnated. We cannot afford to live here.

In addition to life being generally more expensive in Nashville, this year, teachers will pay higher insurance premiums through Cigna than they did last year. The new premiums seem minimal, and will amount to paying between $8-20 more per paycheck, depending on your plan. However, that adds up, and over the course of the year, teachers with families will take home up to $400 less next year than they did last year. I will say that again, because I feel it bears repeating: Teachers will take home up to $400 less this year than they did last year.

Considering that teachers already spend much of their own money stocking their classrooms, so our children don’t spend 7 hours of their day staring at blank cinderblock walls. Considering that a fair handful of Nashville’s educational professionals live dangerously close to food insecurity. Considering that these are the people that are quite literally teaching the next generation of Americans how to read. Considering that talented teachers can very easily find a job elsewhere.

Children do not learn without a teacher to teach them. And children left untaught become adults who are not capable of supporting themselves. Study after study has connected a lack of education to increases in crime, unemployment, and reliance on government assistance. We, the American taxpayer, will pay, and do pay, for the faults in our education system, and we will continue to. We either pay for it now, or we pay for it later. Sadly, our elected officials continue to opt to pay for prisons and welfare rather than appropriately fund high-quality education.

The original budget was inadequate itself. The eventual budget is appalling. We cannot continue like this if we want a thriving, healthy, productive, safe community. It is not a question of whether or how we will pay for it, its when. And whether or not we’ll be too late to reverse the effects of our delay.


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