Recent Funding Equity & Fiscal Transparency Projects:

Tennessee Public School Collaborative

Growing Charter Footprint

Afton works with district and charter stakeholders in Nashville to prepare for a growing charter footprint

Afton Partners worked in collaboration with the Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) and the Tennessee Charter School Center (TCSC) to develop an analysis for the Public Schools Collaborative (PSC) on per pupil spending at district-run and charter schools. The PSC is a group of district and charter leaders in Nashville, TN, created in 2014 to facilitate the identification and implementation of best practices associated with high performing schools in Nashville, regardless of operator type. At the time of the engagement, MNPS charter-managed school enrollment was projected to grow by 10,000+ students over the next five years, while district-managed school enrollment was projected to decline by 3,500+ students.

With the growing charter footprint in Nashville, the TCSC engaged Afton to: 1) analyze MNPS spending on all schools (district and charter-managed) compared to academic outcomes; and 2) provide a clarified understanding of MNPS sources and uses of funding, with particular emphasis on fixed versus variable district costs.

Afton’s findings included:

  1. MNPS spent about $100 more per-pupil on district managed schools than on charter schools.
  2. MNPS spent $73MM on capital improvements at district schools and $0 in capital funds for charters.
  3. Charter schools academically outperformed district-managed schools with similar funding levels.
  4. The majority of district expenditures are variable in the long term and can be adjusted over time to reflect anticipated shifts in enrollment.

TCSC’s report (PDF) offers guidance on important next steps for MNPS to consider to ensure financial sustainability for all schools, as its student population and community needs evolve in coming years.

Our Insights

The majority of district expenditures are variable in the long term. The district’s infrastructure (its buildings, services, and associated cost structure) reflects the past for which it was designed, but it can evolve over the long term to meet the needs of a changing network of schools. Many of the nation’s large, urban districts experiencing a growing charter footprint should be working to develop a long-term operational plan to support the current and future structure of education – one that acknowledges an evolving mix of district-managed and charter-managed public schools. After working to support TCSC’s report, Afton subsequently developed a dynamic financial scenario forecast model for MNPS to support the development of a long term operational plan.

District and Charter collaboration is crucial to address the long-term challenges and opportunities facing districts with multiple operator types.  The Public School Collaborative in Nashville included leadership from the District, including the superintendent, CFO and director of Human Resources, as well as CEOs and Directors from local Charter networks.  The group allowed for an open discussion about Afton’s analysis, and, more importantly, how the analysis could impact decisions that District can make today that help minimize resource strain on the District and taxpayers.

Stats & Impact

$817M

FY14 Annual Operating Budget (MNPS)

$1.1B

FY14 Total Expenditures and Cap Ex (MNPS)

154

Total Schools (137 District-Managed & 17 Charter-Managed)