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It was a discussion that lasted nearly five hours.

Faced with a number of controversial issues up for a vote this week, Knox County school leaders spent their Monday night work-session weighing those decisions.

School Budget

School spending talks are drawing to a close, and the district will vote Wednesday on a plan that includes several new reductions.

Last week, the Knox County Commission approved Mayor Tim Burchett's $727 million dollar spending plan for the county, but the school district's portion of that fell below KCS expectations.

The appropriation was $7.5 million less than expected, so now Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre has proposed has several reductions to his budget – including the teacher raises.

The reductions also include eliminating a few reserve positions (currently unfilled), a central office position, and limiting high school clerical positions.

"There are limited options in terms of where we're able to close such a significant budget gap," McIntyre said. "The proposal that I've made is the best we can do."

The superintendent called the district's latest budget of nearly $425 million a modest increase over the current year -- reflecting a $5 million dollar, or 1 percent, increase in resources.

Emerald Charter Academy

Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre has recommended the Board of Education approve an application for a new charter school in Knox County. If passed, Emerald Charter Academy would open in Knox County in 2015.

In a memo to the board, Dr. McIntyre said the Academy's application "generally reflected a high quality charter school plan."

Several board members agreed the application was strong, but are opposed to bringing a charter school to Knox County. They argued the charter school would defer resources from other students in the district at a time when KCS does not have the funding it needs anyway.

However, Tennessee law allows the state final authority on chart implementation. Even if KCS votes against Emerald Academy, education leaders in Nashville could appeal and still implement the program in Knox County.

"The question in the state of Tennessee isn't really whether you like charter schools or want charter schools. "It's did that charter school application meet that criteria that's been set by the state of Tennessee, and if it does – it's going to happen one way or another," McIntyre explained. "So, I think this is the opportunity for the school board to work with the Emerald Academy to make sure its as high quality as it possibly can be, so that, ultimately our kids benefit from that."

"They have taken this out of our hands to make local decisions about our schools, and it makes it very tough to manage," said board member, Karen Carson.

The issue goes before a vote during the Board of Education meeting Wednesday.

To read the full agenda for the meeting, visit the KCS website.

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