Analysis: Proposed Charter School Could Cost Rutherford Taxpayers $7 Million

Advocate Andy

Nonprofit group provides insight into fiscal impact of American Classical Academy proposal

Rutherford County taxpayers could soon be on the hook for $7 million a year to fund a privately-run school affiliated with a Michigan-based college.

That's according to new analysis provided by Public School Partners and Charter Fiscal Impact.

The report examined the application from the charter school operator and compared it with both the state's school funding formula and local education expenditures.

Based on that analysis, Rutherford County's initial cost should the charter school, affiliated with Hillsdale College out of Michigan, open as planned would be $3.4 million. The projected cost if the school hits its enrollment target would be just under $7 million.

To be clear, these costs would be above what taxpayers already pay for the operation of public schools in in the district. That's because with or without charter schools, the district has certain fixed costs that can't easily be reduced.

Donna Wright, a retired superintendent from neighboring Wilson County, explains more about the fiscal impact of charter schools.

“No matter how you run the numbers, the financial math on charter schools just doesn’t add up for Tennessee students, parents, and taxpayers,” said Dr. Donna Wright, a PSP co-founder and retired superintendent of Wilson County Schools. “Privately run charter schools that aren’t accountable to elected local school boards significantly strain local budgets, which already are being stretched thin by inflation and other cost pressures.”

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.

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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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