Creative Math By Knox County Schools and Gannett Reporter Imply State Cut District Spending By $6M When In Fact Contribution Increased By That Amount

A Knoxville News-Sentinel reporter last week shared the local school superintendent’s creative math to accuse Gov. Bill Lee of cutting education spending by nearly $6 million, when in fact the state’s BEP contribution had increased by that amount.

On April 1, reporter Tyler Whetstone tweeted, “New today – @GovBillLee‘s BEP proposal would cut @KnoxSchools funding by approximately $6 million. That’s a lot of 0s when you’re trying to scrap together a budget.”

Whetstone’s story quoted Knox County Schools Superintendent Bob Thomas as lamenting a roughly $6 million cut in budgeted funds from the state’s Basic Education Plan going to the district. Thomas cried that the sky would fall in the form of the district not building three planned school buildings and changing a planned pay raise.

But guess what, Thomas’ math might as well have been an April Fool’s joke.

The state has typically added roughly $180 million new dollars into the BEP statewide in recent years. This, plus other smaller percentages of state funds, allowed the county to budget roughly $12 million extra BEP dollars each year. Last year it added an extra $14.1 million new BEP dollars after the state added $188.4 million new dollars to the fund.

However, that number is expected to be down to $117.5 million in new money this year, meaning the county’s share of new dollars is projected to be only $6.2 million, nearly $8 million less than last year, Knox County Finance Director Chris Caldwell said.

(emphasis added)

Why the confusion? Apparently, according to Knox County officials and Gannett reporters, budgeting should not be done based on the previous year’s numbers but instead from new money added year to year – count the surplus before you get it. If you receive a bonus one year, plan for it every year.

You could be pardoned for thinking Knox County Schools were putting this extra money to good use. You would be wrong, however.

The state’s 2018 Report Card shows the district having a success rate of less than 50 percent – 43.1 percent, to be exact. Math grade-level performance is at 35.6 percent, down 1 percent from the previous year. English Language Arts is at 37.6 percent, down 2.2 percent, while science is at 59.5 percent, down 1.1 percent.

According to a recent THEC report, 40 percent of Knox County graduates who enrolled in college needed remedial instruction.

Former Gov. Bill Haslam secured Tennessee $500 million Race to the Top funds and $1.5 billion in overall education funding increases, while fourth-graders lost ground in a national mathematics test.

All this could lead one to question if more money is the answer.

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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.









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4 Thoughts to “Creative Math By Knox County Schools and Gannett Reporter Imply State Cut District Spending By $6M When In Fact Contribution Increased By That Amount”

  1. Kevin

    Hmmm? So you mean throwing more and more money at our schools doesn’t actually make them better. I guess if we keep going at this rate, our schools and the associated amount of money spent, will look just like Baltimore! Well, doesn’t this fly in the face of everything the School Administrators and the education lobbyists have been telling us for years?

    How about we go back to putting a teacher or two in a one or two school house, with a bunch if kids, get rid of everything else, and see what happens! Fact is, kids back 200 years ago could read, write and do math better than kids today!

  2. 83ragtop50

    Facts and truth do not matter to people and publishers such as these. I do not understand how that can make such claims with a straight face nor how they can live with themselves.

  3. Randy Pace

    At some point the public will realize that the misrepresentation of what is actually is happening in our education system must stop. If you can’t even be honest with the people in your own organization, if you encourage the type of behavior from those same people that you discipline children for (bullying). You will continue to fail in your primary mission. The public is beginning to pay closer attention and starting to feel the pinch of your financial mismanagement. Every person in Knox County should read this article and then review the entire school budget line by line. Then ask the School Board and Superintendent to list each Departments expenditures on line for all to see.

    1. Dal ANDREW

      BASELINE BUDGETING is the root of many evils associated with bloated and ever expanding big government.