Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Superintendent talks school budget and Commission goes on the attack

Jim McIntyre
Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim “Slim” McIntyre met with the commission (sitting as the finance committee) on Monday to talk about the budget.

Not a whole lot of new info. Or any. But there was some good back-and-forth by Commissioner Mike Brown that we can get to in a minute.

First off, though, Mac said the school board approved a $432.3 million spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year. That’s up $12.5 million over the current one (or about 3 percent).

He said it was “tightly aligned to educational priorities,” and was a “no frills” plan within no new instructional initiatives.

He said the budget emphasizes three priorities:
  • It will sustain the “educational improvement efforts we’ve put in place,” such as Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett’s early reading program (which the county actually covers).
  • It will cover opening new Magnet Career Academy at Pellissippi State
  • It will “enhance teacher salaries” by 2.5 percent (which isn’t necessarily true because he didn’t propose a budget that actually had the funding to pay for salary increases).
Mac noted that funding the raises would cost about $6.2 million and it will require the community “to stretch a little bit.” (The school system didn't budget for $4.5 million of it.)

He said officials needed to “reallocate resources to make the budget work,” and that some central office positions would be cut through attrition. He didn’t expect any layoffs.

Mac said they were working to preserve teacher and teacher aide positions.

It’s an “educationally focused and student centered” budget,” he added.

When asked whether teachers would get a raise if the commission couldn’t find the money to pay for it, Mac said the budget does include a step increase that amounts to “a 4 to 5 to $600” range based on the step.

Mike Brown
Overall, the commission seemed fairly unimpressed, especially board member Mike Brown.

He said that Mac has placed teacher priorities “at the bottom of the list.”

“If a general on a battlefield doesn’t feed his troops, he’s liable to get shot in the back,” Brown said.

He reminded Mac that he just asked the community to “stretch it,” but wondered “why doesn’t the school board stretch it?”

Brown noted that all county departments have been asked to trim spending but “it’s always with the school board: ‘Give me more, give me more, give me more.’”

He also took issue with the Parthenon Group’s so-called “smart study” plan, which cost taxpayers at least $180,000. He said UT probably could have conducted it for $800.

He said the money paid to the Parthenon Group could have “gone a long way to fund teacher raises.”

Brown also asked Mac whether the school system would cover raises if commission wouldn’t appropriate the funds, but the superintendent wouldn’t give a straight answer.

Instead, Mac said he wanted the commission to first look at his proposed budget.

Said Brown: “Wish in one hand and pour sand in the other (and see which one fills up first).”

Commissioner Tony Norman also suggested that more than teachers would get raises.

He also said that Mac claimed that “there were no new initiatives.”

But, he said the superintendent wasn’t “responding to the teacher concerns” that were raised in recent months during long and, often testy, school board meetings. One example, he cited, was the teacher coaches.

Mac said “I think we have in a variety of different ways listened to our educators,” and noted that there is now a committee comprised of officials and teachers “that’s been very productive.”

The two then got into it, but at this point, I’m bored typing.

No comments: