Metro Schools stress lack of funding in new budget

Dr. Shawn Joseph, MNPS Director of Schools

Dr. Shawn Joseph, MNPS Director of Schools

Shawn Joseph is defending his first budget as superintendent of Metro Schools.

Metro Schools officials highlighted the lack of funding for some pet projects when appearing for a budget hearing before the Metro Council Tuesday night.

A more than $900 million proposal was trimmed by about $23 million by Mayor Megan Barry.

The district initially put forth a 902.8 million budget, which was pared down by the mayor.

“The district was unable to hire more nurses in our district — psychologists, translators, social workers and other professionals who will deliver important support services to students and schools — and this is critical,” first-year superintendent Shawn Joseph said. “Before you can even get to the academics, you have to get to some of the social emotional learning challenges that exist.”

The Metro Council does have final say over the city’s budget and could find money to fund the district’s priorities.

The 4.3 percent increase by Mayor Megan Barry is less than the city’s overall revenue increase of 5.86 percent.

“Every year we have a larger ask and every year we get more than any year before,” said Board Chair Anna Shepherd. “A lot of of departments are keeping their eye on the prize and (Mayor Barry) has tried to spread the love to as many areas as possible.”

To meet Barry’s recommended budget figure — which is still a $36 million increase over the prior year — the school system scaled back an expansion of its social emotional learning program. The district also decided to slow down an effort to make middle school curriculum more rigorous. That allowed the district to pay the full 3 percent raise to teachers, which was in the original budget plan.

Changes still could be possible, but the brunt of the work is over, as the district approved a revised request of $36 million more than last year’s school budget — or $879 million in the 2017-18 school year.