An overwhelming majority of Nashville residents – 81 percent – support increasing public school funding, according to the results of a citywide survey commissioned by the Nashville Public Education Foundation. Teacher pay, early literacy and pre-K are some of the most strongly supported areas for increased funding.
Working hand in hand with a desire to see more funding for the city’s public schools, a majority of voters – 63 percent – feel present-day funding of public schools is too low. For parents, that sentiment is more pronounced, with 74 percent saying education funding is too low. Nashville currently spends $9,788 per pupil – a number that represents almost half what is spent per child in many area private schools and considerably less than many other large, urban school districts around the country.
“It is abundantly clear that the community strongly supports a deeper investment in our public schools,” said NPEF President and CEO Shannon Hunt. “While more can and should be done to ensure money is well-spent and results in strong outcomes for kids, the reality is that there is recognition that funding is part of the equation.”
The survey – the first of what is intended to be an annual in-depth look exclusively at public perceptions about the city’s public schools – also found that, while there is overwhelming support for increased funding, there is also a sense of stagnation in terms of improvement. About half of voters and parents say Nashville schools have mainly stayed the same over the last five years. In addition, while pre-K centers and public elementary schools receive high marks, the job rating of middle schools drops off significantly, and the public is evenly divided on the performance of the city’s high schools.
“In the quest to strengthen and improve our public schools, it is imperative that the debate not be controlled by a handful of voices but that there regularly are efforts to hold a mirror up to the community – to listen and hear what’s working and what’s not, and to delve deeper into the public’s priorities,” Hunt said. “We are committed to regularly and transparently giving greater voice to the public about the state of our schools and their needs.”
“In our research, we continue to see that education is a top, pressing concern for Nashville residents, spanning racial, partisan and regional divides,” said Kevin Akins, ALG vice president. “Despite education sometimes being viewed through a polarized lens, there are overwhelming areas of agreement in Nashville: Funding is low, teacher pay is critical, and early literacy programs are effective. These findings could have a major impact on Nashville’s education landscape now and in the future.”