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Board mulls Basic Education windfall


Knox County Schools will receive at least $19 million from the Basic Education Program, but even with the additional money, the approved budget is short of what was requested.

“It appears to us right now is that we will receive about 13 million more dollars than we have programmed into our budget for B-E-P funding. That is good news,” Russ Oaks, director of public affairs for Knox County Schools, said. “The part that’s still challenging is we did submit a $380 million budget requirement to the mayor and the County Commission. So this level of funding, if it all comes in final, would bring us to a level of revenue that would be about $357 million. So it’s still less than what we asked for.”

Thomas Deakins, Sixth District representative on the Board of Education, agreed.

“[The budget’s] not fully funded from everything that we asked for, which was about $367-68 million. We needed three-fifty to be able to get to the point to continue all of the operating budget, everything that we needed to do. Everything else would be things that would be added on top of that.”

Deakins said he is excited about being able to add some programs that weren’t previously funded.

“I’ve got an idea on what I want to see us spend the extra money on, but I’m sure every Board member will have their own list. It won’t be a big fight. It’ll just be a discussion, because we’re in a situation where we can actually add some things,” he said. “I’m not aware of too many times the School Board gets to do that; we’re usually cutting things.”

Both Oaks and Deakins said the Board would probably vote to fund a literacy initiative

program.

“There’s been a lot of interest by the staff and the Board, in particular, in an initiative that we call Excellence through Literacy, a K-12 literacy initiative that would not only address the needs of struggling students, but also of students who are higher performing or performing at advanced levels as well,” Oaks said. “Literacy is defined as much more than reading. We are very interested in that, and it comes with a $3.2 million price tag.”

Deakins said the program should have an impact on Farragut schools.

“It would allow Farragut Primary, Intermediate schools to have some aides brought back in. They had those aides at one time, and when those aides left, I think the Board had a hiring freeze at that time. It would allow us to bring them back in,” he said. “All of my principals have really pushed for this. I think they’re going to be excited. I think our teachers will be excited, and I think our parents … will look at this and see that it’s a good thing.”

In addition to hiring aides, Deakins said the program would address students with behavior issues.

“We’re beginning to see more behavioral issues in our side of the district and other areas of the county,” he said. “The literacy program initiative is key, because it has something in it to allow an alternative elementary school. That, in my opinion, is a need. We’ve got to have it. We’ve got it in the middle school; we’ve got it in the high school; we’ve got to get it in the elementary school.”

An alternative school would act as an intervention for

students.

“We don’t suspend kids anymore and kick them out of school for a year. We send them to an alternative school, so they still get educated,” he added.

Oaks said he expects the Board to also look at teacher raises and improving technology and security countywide.

“All of these things are in that $368 million request that was sent to the Mayor’s office. Really what it comes back to is assigning some priorities to those items that didn’t make the initial cut,” he said.

 

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