100+ rally for education reform at Market Square

An East Tennessee lawmaker held a rally Friday on Market Square to protest the work of outside groups in the affairs of the Knox County school district.

The rally, put on by democratic state representative Gloria Johnson, drew more than 100 teachers, parents and students. Johnson, who is also a teacher, said there is fear among educators in the district that special interest groups are looking to profit off of students.

Johnson said she got the idea to hold the event after Monday's Board of Education work session meeting.

At that meeting, board members heard from the Parthenon Group, a consulting firm from Boston.

The group suggested a number of ways the district could run more efficiently.

But, Johnson said instead of pouring money into consulting firms like the Parthenon Group, school districts should instead focus on more pressing needs.

According to the district, the Parthenon Group became involved with Knox County Schools after the district received a $1.2 million dollar grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.

In order to win the grant, the district had to also match the foundation with a payment of $360,000. Half of that money came from private donations sent to the Great Schools Partnership. While the other half came from taxpayers.

"We need to look at funding our BEP (Basic Education Programs) and wholly funding education and right now, I don't think we're doing that," she said.

But, district leaders say they're happy with the results. McIntyre said the Parthenon Group and its expertise will help the district in the long term.

"I think it was useful to do a specific piece of work to make sure that we were using the taxpayers' dollars as wisely, and as effectively, and as efficiently as we can to support the education of our children," he said.

McIntyre also said groups like Parthenon do not have final say as to what happens with the district's budget.He said that decision that still lies with the school board.


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