American Classical Academy Could Cost Maury County Taxpayers $7 Million

Advocate Andy

Proposed charter school carries significant fiscal impact

A proposal to open a charter school affiliated with Michigan-based Hillsdale College could end up costing Maury County taxpayers $7 million a year. That's according to an analysis by a nonpartisan group that studies school financing.

American Classical Academy has proposed opening a charter school in Maury County and is in the midst of the application process. The school, operated in association with Hillsdale College, plans to open with just over 300 students and to have nearly 700 at full capacity.

It would be the first and only charter school in Maury County if approved.

Public School Partners, in association with its fiscal calculator, Charter Fiscal Impact, provided the analysis of financial impact. According to the data, the fixed costs borne by Maury County taxpayers in the first year of the charter school's operation would be just over $3.4 million. At full capacity, the school would carry a cost to taxpayers of $6.9 million. These costs are in addition to monies Maury County taxpayers already pay to operate the district's schools.

The school funding group compared the charter school proposal with the state's new school funding formula to determine the "fixed costs" that would be passed on to taxpayers.

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 former middle Tennessee school superintendent warned that charter schools are a bad deal for local taxpayers.

“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.”

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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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