Despite a formal request from the Metro Council, the school board will not hold an additional public hearing on the school district’s proposed $633 million budget for the next fiscal year.
In a letter sent to Metro council members Wednesday, school board chair David Fox wrote that the “school board itself will not be conducting another public hearing” on the budget, but added he’s pleased the council’s Education Committee plans to conduct one.
The council’s public hearing is scheduled for Monday, March 22 at 5:30 p.m. at Metro Southeast/Genesco Park in the Green Hills Auditorium.
In a 32-2 vote, the council last night approved a memorializing resolution that asks the school board hold another public hearing on the budget, this time on a Saturday and in a school auditorium equipped to hold a large audience. The council also urged for Metro3, the government-run station, to televise the event.
“I think it’s a shame that an elected school board wouldn’t have another hearing,” said Councilman Jamie Hollin, who co-sponsored the resolution with members Michael Craddock and Eric Crafton. “It’s clear they don’t want to hear again from the people whose jobs are on the line.”
The council’s vote followed last week’s school board public hearing in which hundreds of custodians and bus drivers jammed the Bransford Avenue board workroom to decry budget cuts that would affect their jobs. Workers, represented by unions, staged rallies beforehand, and many who attended were forced to observe the hearing through an open door because of limited space. The event was not televised.
According to Fox, the school district announced last week’s public hearing weeks in advance, made public posts about it, and pushed its starting time back 30 minutes to accommodate the adjusted school day, recently lengthened to make up for snows days.
To speak at last week’s hearing, a person had to notify the board prior to the meeting.
In today’s letter, Fox said dozens of people followed the procedure by contacting school administrators by phone or e-mail. Fox also pointed out that despite the hundreds of union members protesting outside prior to the hearing, only “a handful” of people chose to sign up to speak despite the sign-up deadline being pushed back.
“It’s one thing for us as council members to be familiar with the parliamentary process, etc.,” Hollin shot back. “It’s different for a bus driver and custodian to know those rules, regulations and requirements to send earlier notification.”
The school board is expected to vote on the budget Tuesday, March 23.