The Chalk Board, March 30, 2015

By Sally Absher

 

BEP Funding Lawsuits Officially Begin.

Superintendents from Knox, Hamilton, Davidson, and Shelby Counties met with Gov. Haslam last week hoping to avoid a potential inadequate funding lawsuit against the State of Tennessee.

It’s no secret that Tennessee schools have been underfunded since the Basic Education Plan, the state’s funding formula, was put into place in 1992. The formula was revised in 2007, but the General Assembly has yet to appropriate the funds necessary to close the funding gap. According to the state’s BEP Review Committee, schools statewide are currently underfunded by over a billion dollars per year.

The Tennessean reports that Haslam has tasked TDOE Commissioner Candice McQueen with speaking to every superintendent statewide about the funds their districts need in the short- and long term. “What we agreed to do is continue this conversation … about what are the specific things we are going to do that will lead to better outcomes. Some of those will be funding issues,” Haslam said.

Just one day after the meeting with the Governor, Hamilton County and several neighboring school boards in the Chattanooga area (including Bradley, McMinn, Marion, Grundy, Coffee, and Polk County) filed a lawsuit against the state. Defendants in the lawsuit include Governor Haslam, Ron Ramsey, Beth Harwell, Candice McQueen, and the members of the Tennessee Board of Education.

The lawsuit filed in Davidson County Chancery Court alleges that the “Tennessee has breached its duty under the Tennessee Constitution to provide a system of free public education for the children of this State and has instead created a system that impermissibly shifts the cost of education to local boards of education, schools, teachers and students, resulting in substantially unequal educational opportunities across the State.”

The Nashville Scene reports that the governor’s spokesman, David Smith said, “The governor is very disappointed after he and the commissioner made the commitment yesterday to a collaborative process to work closely with districts on these issues, and litigation will obviously decrease potential for collaboration.”

It is not known where the state would find the additional funding. As KCS Board Chairman Mike McMillan pointed out in February, a lawsuit by Knox County BOE would amount to using your tax dollars to sue the legislature to force the General Assembly to raise your taxes.

McIntyre Working Overtime to Promote His Budget.

Dr. McIntyre has been busy the past few weeks, speaking to anyone who will listen about why he needs $16M more of your tax dollars for Knox County Schools.

He gave a presentation to the Halls Business Club over Spring break. He even promoted his budget last week on the “Rude Awakening” morning talk radio show, known to be somewhat more critical of the Super than the other morning talk radio shows.

KCS is presenting a Community Forum regarding the fiscal year 2015-16 budget process on Monday, April 6 at 6 p.m. at Amherst Elementary School (5101 Schaad Road). The meeting will be streamed live at knoxschools.org/kcstv and broadcast live on Comcast Channel 10 and AT&T U-verse Channel 99.

Meanwhile, McIntyre has quietly hired another Broad Academy Fellow. Christy Hendler joins KCS administration as Director of Planning and Improvement, a new position. According to Broadcenter.org, Ms. Hendler comes to us from Nevada, where she served as the Director of Acceleration Zone Strategy & Operations at Washoe County School District.

“The objective of the Acceleration Zone is to turn around the lowest performing schools within the district. Prior to joining the Broad Residency, Hendler worked at Procter & Gamble for 16 years on brands such as Gillette, Olay, Febreze, Dawn, and Folgers as a Product Development manager. Hendler holds a bachelor’s of science in chemical engineering from Penn State University and a master’s of business administration from Xavier University.”

Broad fellows have a starting salary between  $90 – 100K. Usually a portion of the salary is subsidized by Broad, at least for the first two years…but the county is eventually left writing the check.

Something Amiss in Special Education.

Next year, students with Individual Education Plans requiring a focus on basic functional academics and preparing students for independent living and working (formerly known as CDC-A students) will be required to have 1 ½ hours of instruction in common core math and 1 ½ hours of instruction in common core English daily.

Teachers are being told they have to eliminate some of the much needed life skills curriculum each day for 3 hours of common core instruction and to prepare for the National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC) test next spring.

Special Education teacher Gloria Johnson said, “SPED teachers know these kids, they know what they can do, and they show progress with the kids every day… many of these students are doing a great job with their academics and we should take them as far as they can go, but for some of these students, learning independent living skills will assist them in their adult life more than CCSS and standardized computer tests.”

By definition, these students have “varying moderate, severe and profound disabilities,” which covers a wide range of abilities. Special Education advocate Kim Kredich points out that when they moved here, KCS recommended her son Ben, who has autism, be placed in a Special Class geared toward functional academic and life skills. The family advocated instead for inclusion in the regular education classroom, with appropriate supports.

Kredich says she is “no fan of standardized tests,” but chronicles Ben’s progress from 3rd grade when he “didn’t even understand the concept of testing” and predictably, scored “below basic” in every area, through Vine Middle School where he began to score basic to advanced on TCAP’s, to his freshman year at West High School, where Ben tested as “proficient” on both English and Biology EOC’s.

Kredich adds, “I hate to even think of the person he would have become had we agreed to KCS’s placement recommendation. Ben is an educated young man now, and his improvement in test scores is simply a byproduct of his learning, growth, and development within the inclusive educational setting from preschool through high school.”

 

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