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EDUCATION

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A Brighter Future for Every Child
Accelerating Improvement Across MNPS 

Ensuring a strong public education system should be the number one priority for Metro government. Providing a child with a strong education can’t be quantified, as it’s the single most effective investment we can make to overcome our city’s systemic barriers to economic prosperity. The money we spend on our public schools is more than just a line item in our budget -- it is a direct investment in the future of our city.  As mayor, I will work to accelerate improvement across MNPS by focusing on a key set of goals: 

Increase Funding for Schools
First, we need to adequately invest in our students and ensure they have the resources necessary to succeed. This starts by increasing per-pupil funding to the recommended level of $15,000 a year. MNPS currently spends roughly $10,000 per-pupil annually, which is far and below many of our peer cities. We won’t get there overnight, but a concerted strategy to raise our per-pupil amount will go a long way to increase student success. 

To reach this goal, my administration will perform an audit of every Metro department to create efficiencies and identify potential cost-savings, streamlining departments with overlapping duties and purposes. We’ll work to ensure that more tourist dollars are flowing back into our neighborhood schools. I will also use my experience and relationships at the state-level to lobby lawmakers to update the BEP funding formula so that urban schools are no longer inequitably reliant on local funding.

We also need to increase funding so that we can finally provide every child in Nashville with universal pre-kindergarten. Early childhood education is essential to help students perform and develop on schedule and at grade-level, particularly if they are at higher risk to suffer from adverse childhood experiences. There are hundreds of children who wish to enroll in pre-k programs, yet they’re currently waitlisted and forced to sit on the sidelines as their peers excel. This should never be the case. As mayor, I will make quality universal pre-k a top priority to help ensure every child as an equal opportunity to succeed. 

Pay Our Educators What They Deserve 
It costs around $80,000 a year to live comfortably in Nashville, yet the starting pay for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree is $43,000 a year. For a teacher with a masters degree, it will take them 11 years to reach $50,000. Many educators go years without seeing a substantial raise and, as such, decide to leave MNPS to teach in nearby school districts with higher pay and better support, or they are forced to live outside the county. 

My administration will work with the Board of Education to increase the starting salary of MNPS teachers and amend the pay scale to make sure teachers receive a step increase every year that is in line with their education, tenure, and performance. In my first budget as mayor, I will work to increase the cost of living adjustment of all teachers to 5%, and raise the minimum wage of all MNPS employees to $15 per hour. Para-professionals, bus drivers, and custodial staff are the ones who keep our schools running smoothly, and they deserve our utmost respect. 

Furthermore, no teacher should be using their own money to buy our children school supplies. To that end, I will work to increase the annual supply stipend from its current level of $200 per year to $500, and allow educators to fundraise for special projects from both non-profit and private organizations. 

Improve Access to Social Services and After-School Programming
Our students are in school for 7 hours a day. The other 17 hours are spent in our community, where students may face poverty, housing instability, joblessness, and lack of access to basic needs. Metro government needs to take full responsibility for these 17 hours and work to improve the quality of life of every child. This starts by making it possible for students and families to partake in positive after-school activities, particularly between the hours of 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., as well as increasing access to organizations that can provide wrap-around services and relief during life’s most challenging moments. 

As mayor, I will work to bring our non-profit and faith-based communities together to strengthen existing programming and streamline services so that organizations can work together to support students. I will work directly with local service providers and school leadership to increase awareness of available opportunities and make it easier for students to participate in programming by providing reliable transportation options to before and after-school programs. A lack of transportation should be no reason for a student to be unable to enjoy an enriching, positive environment outside of school. 

I will also support the current Community Achieves program that seeks to provide students and families in low-income communities with a mix of services that are already available in middle-class and affluent schools. This is a key way we can increase equity across MNPS, ensuring that geography, race, or income no longer predetermine a student’s academic success. It’s the job of Metro government, in partnership with Metro Schools, to ensure that every family has the resources they need to succeed. Organizations such as the Oasis Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee, and countless others do amazing work every day, and local government should be leading the effort to connect them with students in need. 

Establish Partnerships with the Board of Education and the Director of Schools
The Board of Education is a body of public servants, elected by Davidson County residents. Their autonomy should not be undermined. Instead, the mayor’s office should establish a working partnership with MNPS leadership to effectively communicate and address challenges together. 

As mayor, I will commit to holding monthly meetings with school board members and the Director of Schools. To move our city forward, all stakeholders need to have the same shared goal of accelerating improvement across MNPS. While every person will have their own perspective, it should be the mayor’s job to bring everyone together to decide on a strategic and concrete plan that will accomplish a shared goal, and take into account the needs of every school. I will also appoint an individual from the public or private sector to each School Board committee to provide relevant guidance and expertise as counsel for the members. These individuals will also serve as liaisons between the School Board and the mayor’s office.

Create a Parent-Teacher Advisory Council
Teachers and parents need to be at the heart of all Metro decision making regarding students’ quality of life and school performance. They are the ones who understand exactly what their schools and communities need, and it’s time we listen. My administration would establish a Parent-Teacher Advisory Council that would meet on a regular basis to counsel both myself and my staff. This way we can ensure that all decisions regarding education and community services will have the best interest of students and working families at heart. 

Make Developers and Corporations Pay Their Fair Share
To ensure that we are prioritizing the needs of Nashvillian families, developers and corporations need to pay their fair share. As mayor, I will hold these entities to much a higher standard, especially if a company receives incentives from Metro government. This includes required volunteerism, increased technology commitments, programmatic partnerships, and direct investments in MNPS. To truly accelerate growth in every school cluster, we need to form strategic partnerships with the private entities that benefit from our school system and that are able to provide additional resources and invest in our students. Additionally, while a certain amount of incentives will always have to be offered to companies in order for Nashville to compete on the global stage, that doesn’t mean we have to give away the farm. People and businesses want to move to Nashville, so we must negotiate from a place of strength in order to protect our property tax base and maintain more money for our schools.

This is a working document based on feedback from thousands of residents across Nashville. Have an idea? Contact us at info@johnrayclemmons.com.