Leaders with Knox County Schools are disappointed county commissioners did not fully fund their budget request, but say Monday's compromise is a step in the right direction.
"Part of what I'm really pleased about is that it's been a great dialogue," said Dr. Jim McIntyre, Superintendent.
"It allows us to do two things, one, it keeps the money in the classrooms and it does what everybody said they were against, which is a tax increase," said Thomas Deakins, School Board Chair.
Commissioners approved a plan that sees an additional $7 million for the school system. It will support funding classroom initiatives, including an expansion of the "Community Schools" program, a targeted reading program for kindergarten through third graders, and restore teaching positions at several schools.
The plan does not fund $28 million of the district's request for technology and school infrastructure.
"We need to continue the conversation around technology and facilities, there's some great needs there. and some important investments there," McIntyre said. "We'll just continue to make sure that's a part of the dialogue, the commission explicitly said it would be, and I know the school board will continue to have that conversation."
Deakins expressed disappointment that much of the discussion surrounding technology included the idea to provide iPads to all students.
"Its about an infrastructure first, and then the devices second. If you don't have the infrastructure, you cant' take those online assessments," he said.
Deakins and McIntyre both noted that Tennessee is moving to Common Core assessments to replace TCAP exams. The new evaluations are web-based, and with current levels of technology, the district is ill-suited to administer the tests.
"We have to roll up our sleeves with commissioners in the fall and I want to have another retreat with them. I want to be able to say 'These are our plans. How are we going to get there?" Deakins said.
The additional $7 million is on top of $13 million in natural growth that was already included in Mayor Tim Burchett's original proposal.