State Education Funding: Knox Being Short Changed?

By: Kim Bedford
By: Kim Bedford

Knoxville (WVLT) - The Knox County School Board says the state is short-changing the system.

The Better Education Program is a state funding formula that determines how much state money your school district gets.

Volunteer TV's Kim Bedford spoke with Knox County and a smaller school district about the BEP.

The concentration is on school districts with the most at-risk students.

Therefore, smaller districts like Anderson County benefit tremendously, while bigger systems like Knox County say the funding formula is flawed.

"You can't cut your way to excellence. You have to invest your way to excellence," School Board member Dan Murphy says the state isn't investing enough into Knox County schools. "Arguably, we're either last or second to last on a per-student basis. That would suggest that Knox County is the richest school district in the state, which we're clearly not."

The BEP funds for next school year are going more toward smaller school districts with at-risk students.

"We have 33% of our student population, overall, on free or reduced lunch," Oak Ridge School Superintendent Thomas Bailey says his district will benefit greatly with more than $300,000 through BEP funds next year, an extra $70 per student.

"Any kind of funding that helps at-risk students helps us better deliver instruction to students that need additional help," Bailey says.

If the governor's proposed funding goes through, here's the difference, Anderson County would get an extra $111 per students and Knox County, a much bigger district, would receive about $63 per student.

"We believe there's some flaws in the funding formula that need to be re-examined in order to treat everybody fairly," says Murphy.

"How can they say it's not fair if they have 33.3% free and reduced lunch, similar to what we have and then he's also looking at population," says Bailey.

Murphy says money doesn't solve all problems, but a significant lack of it won't provide solutions. "We're not saying necessarily give us everything, but we do want equity and we want to be able to provide our students quality education."

Murphy says the school board has been voicing its concerns to the state for the past couple years, but nothing has been done yet.

The final amounts of money from the BEP will be available toward the end of the school year.

This is really an instance where every penny counts.


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