Knox County Commission may have approved spending for the school system last month, but questions remain.
The Board of Education needs to approve the final version of the $404.7 million spending plan. It is scheduled for a Wednesday vote.
The district previously approved a budget that included an additional $35 million on top of natural revenue growth. Commissioners failed to fully fund that request, instead approving an additional appropriation of $7 million, a large percentage of which is designated for an early literacy program.
Mayor Tim Burchett supported the reading program from the beginning of the budget debate, in large part he said, because it is able to demonstrate measurable results. Burchett contends the extra funding falls outside the "maintenance of effort" requirements and is a one-time grant. That allows the county to rescind the funding next year if the reading program fails to show student improvement, according to Burchett.
Board members at their Monday work session sought clarification on the funding issue, and expressed concern over what results would be considered signs of success.
"There's no benchmarks that are set to define what's going to be success," said Board Chair Thomas Deakins. "For us, if we see a five point jump, that's great. But for the funding body, they may say 'We wanted six.'"
"I don't want Dr. McIntyre and the rest of the administration spending months here trying to demonstrate whether they're achieving that or not when the mark of success could be all over the place," said Karen Carson (5th District).
Board members would like clarification from the Law Director's office on the funding question prior to their Wednesday meeting.
Also at Monday's work session, Dr. Jim McIntyre told the board construction on the district's new elementary school located in Northshore Town Center is on schedule. It is expected to open August, 2013.
The school system is currently accepting applications for a principal. McIntyre said he hopes to have an appointment made shortly. He also plans to present new zoning guidelines for future students in November, following a process that includes community input.