NASHVILLE -- It was an "anticlimactic" meeting for many who went to the Tennessee School Board Association in Nashville Thursday, Jan. 25. At risk was the amount of money each school system gets from the state. Four models had been proposed, and at least one of those models could have taken substantial funds from both Alcoa and Maryville.
The Basic Education Review Committee charged with recommending a model for reworking how public schools are funded in the state failed to make a decision on which of the four methods to recommend to law makers.
Shamblin said he wasnt surprised by the committee not making a recommendation. "I didnt expect them to recommend any of the four models based on the meetings I had attended in the past," he said. "I really wasnt too surprised. I would have been surprised had they recommended one model."
Shamblin said he was real pleased with the committee work. "There
was a consensus that there needs to be adequate
funding before theres any attempt to redistribute funds," he said. "Im encouraged that there is an attempt to look at what is adequate. You look at how Tennessee ranks in what it spends, and it doesnt rank very well. Its causing the state to look at it. When it comes to education in the state of Tennessee, the pie has to be bigger."
Dalton said he didnt think it was the committees job to decide how funds were distributed. "The committee was put together to look at cost factors in operating a basic education program: salaries, benefits and equipment. Everything it takes to run a basic education program," he said.
Each year the committee looks at what changes have occurred and what costs those changes cause. One change recently was the increase in the number of Hispanics. This caused a need for more curriculum to teach English as a second language, he said.
"Thats what they were set up to do to begin with. Asking them to decide on a formula to equalize the amounts that different school systems get is not in the basic responsibilities of that committee to start with. Thats more of a political decision," Dalton said. "The policy makers should be making that decision."
Dalton said the committee agreed on at least one thing. "When theres not enough money to distribute, youre never going to come up with an equitable way to distribute it," he said. "Thats the basic argument. Tennessee just doesnt fund at a level that will meet the real costs. Thats the problem."
The committee did make four recommendations:
- Full funding of all K-12 at risk students
- Full funding of all English as a second language students
- Increase state funding of teachers salaries at 75 percent
(versus the 65 percent of each teachers pay they currently
- Additional funds to each school system as they grow, not just if they grow by 2 percent.
Alcoa City Schools director Tom Shamblin said, "The way it is now if you have a 2 percent increase in enrollment, they give you growth funds. You could have a 1.5 percent growth and that be a lot of students and not get the funds," he said.
Maryville City Schools director Mike Dalton said recommending that
the legislature increase the states portion to 75 percent
of each teachers salary would make up for the 10 percent reduction the state made several years ago that was initially meant to increase teachers minimum salary. It was a mandated increase that put a burden on local systems.
"They did sign an increase in teachers minimum salaries across
the state to get salaries up. Part of that was they forced the
local systems to pay more of it. Theres been pressure to get them back to that original level of 75 percent funding," Dalton said.