Hamblen County taxpayers got stuck once again with a new and ever-expanding schools funding bill, though the local media cheered the barely-approved costs by a razor thin margin. The spin says the state gives all and Hamblen taxpayers don't give enough. The spin says costs are matched by donations for three years. But what that means is after this short period, the full funding costs will fall squarely on the local taxpayers.
Commissioner Linda Noe pegs the problem in her web log. Here is an excerpt from her post about this issue:
"There will be, and has been, "spin" galore about the ELL teacher situation. As Commissioner Phillips pointed out yesterday, if the school system had followed the BEP funding guidelines in this area (11.5 teachers), we would only be 2.5 teachers short of the 14 that will be required for ELL students in 2006-2007 instead of being 6 short! Another item that the Board likes to "spin" is to say that the state/local BEP funding doesn't cover the full costs of these ELL teachers in Hamblen County.
Well, the fact is that the state provides 62.7% of the BEP funding for these teachers and Hamblen County provides the required BEP local funding match of 37.3%. The school system says that this level of state/local BEP funding doesn't cover its teacher and benefit costs. What is not mentioned is that Hamblen County provides additional funding over and above the required BEP local funding match of 37.3%. Hamblen County provides approximately $5 million dollars in additional funding above the required match and has done so for several years through maintenance of effort provisions. And on top of the $5 million provided above BEP local match requirements, Hamblen County also provides additional money to the schools every year through the payment of school construction debt on behalf of the school system---principal and interest payments that are paid from the county's debt service fund. (If you hear it said that the school system helps pay the school construction debt, that is correct but only to a small degree. The school system agreed years ago to contribute $500,000 of its BEP money to help in the payment of the huge school construction debt that was incurred by the county with the recently completed $35 million school building program--this $500,000, however, does not begin to cover the principal and interest costs that the county incurs and pays each year for school debt outside of the BEP and school budget.)
There will be a dozen different and carefully worded explanations for the current "crisis" and shortage of ELL teachers. Putting all this "spin" aside, the simple fact is that the school system shorted this program area for at least two years and has now put together a plan to start a brand new school for "newcomers" --a plan that will involve bussing 120 students from all over the county to and from a site at Walters State with loss of instructional time and ever-rising costs to the local taxpayers in future years."
The bottom line is, a handful of long-time commissioners approved a funding nightmare, which will only continue to grow the county's budget woes and sticking it to taxpayers. With the current priority the county had previously given Education Costs - providing over 85% of the county's entire budget alloted to one agency - it is never ever, ever enough. As Superintendent Dr. Dale Lynch likes to say "Let me assure you" .... however to me this cost to the county taxpayers continues to soar higher and higher.