District 22 Metro Councilman Eric Crafton calls it the “dark little secret that nobody talks about.” Of the 95 counties in the state of Tennessee, Davidson County comes in second-to-last in per-pupil funding from the state's Basic Education Plan formula.
Because of that, Crafton has sponsored a nonbinding Metro Council memorializing resolution, which asks Gov. Phil Bredesen and the Davidson County delegation to the state legislature to fix the formula so Nashville gets a fair share.
“I want to make people aware that Davidson County is getting the shaft when it comes to distribution of state education funds,” Crafton said. “And everybody knows it, but it's the dark little secret that nobody talks about. But I’m going to talk about it.”
According to Crafton’s research, Davidson County’s BEP funding amounted to an average of $2,523.26 per pupil. The average throughout the state was $3,988.91. The BEP formula takes into consideration factors like the local dollars provided to education funding. Metro allocates two thirds of its local option sales tax dollars to fund schools.
But Crafton said the state is going too far to pick up the slack for counties that don’t allocate more local dollars. Especially aggravating, Crafton said, was the fact that Williamson County’s per-pupil average was higher than Nashville. Only Knox County averaged less per pupil.
“If anyone thinks that Williamson County deserves to get more funding from the state on a per-pupil basis than we do, to me that's just crazy,” Crafton said.
Crafton pointed out that Metro schools have larger percentages of English-learners and students with disabilities than most counties, which he says isn't factored in enough. He said the BEP formula should provide equal dollars per-pupil to every county.
“We're doing our fair share, but the state is not doing its fair share on distribution of resources,” Crafton said.
The state Department of Education pointed out the BEP formula was adjusted last year to give more for school districts with English Language Learner and at-risk students.
“Governor Bredesen, the State Board of Education and the General Assembly have already made changes to address court decisions regarding equity and adequacy of funding through the BEP funding formula,” state Education Commissioner Timothy Webb said. "Additional resources have also been provided to address English Language Learner and at-risk student funding. Annually, inflationary adjustments are included in the formula to account for increases in cost. "In addition, the BEP Review Committee is charged each year with reviewing the formula and making recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly."
To read Crafton's nonbinding resolution, click here.
Crafton earned a name for himself when he pushed the English Only voter referendum, which would have made English Metro government's official language.
The initiative failed at the polls. Crafton has proven to be contrarian on other issues as well. He has voted against a new stormwater fee for Metro Water ratepayers, and more recently he voted against acquiring the land to build the proposed new convention center downtown.