Study: Hillsdale Charter School Could Cost Montgomery County Taxpayers $7 Million

Advocate Andy

Fiscal impact analysis shows long-term cost of proposed charter school

An analysis by a statewide nonprofit dedicated to examining school funding issues indicates that a proposed charter school in Montgomery County could end up costing taxpayers up to $7 million a year.

The analysis, conducted by Public School Partners in conjunction with Charter Fiscal Impact, examined the implications of opening a charter school in Montgomery County along the lines of a proposal offered by American Classical Academy, an affiliate of Michigan-based Hillsdale College.

The group reviewed the proposal and then compared it to the state's school funding formula in order to determine the local, fixed costs associated with funding and supporting a charter school. As proposed, the Hillsdale charter school would open with 340 students and would have 690 students at full enrollment.

This means, according to Public School Partners, the year one cost in Montgomery County would be $3.4 million and the cost at full enrollment would be $6.9 million.

Fixed costs account for at least 40 percent of some school districts’ budgets. Nationwide, Moody’s Investors Service found that a growing number of school districts face “financial stress” due to fixed costs. In Nashville, an independent study found that charter schools would, “with nearly 100 percent certainty, have a negative fiscal impact” on the local school district’s budget.

A parent from Nashville warned that if the Hillsdale charter is approved in Montgomery County, it could prove to be a long-term drag on the county's taxpayers.

“Over the past decade, the explosion of charter schools in Nashville siphoned funds from neighborhood schools and ultimately helped trigger a massive county-wide property tax increase,” said Kenneth Byrd, a PSP co-founder and parent of three children in Metro Nashville Public Schools. “While it’s unfortunate for Nashville that we were at the bleeding edge of school privatization in Tennessee, hopefully our experience can serve as a cautionary tale for suburban and rural districts that now face the same threat.”

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Andy Spears is a middle Tennessee writer and policy advocate. He reports on news around public policy issues - education, health care, consumer protection, and more.

Nashville, TN

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