Knox County Schools show large per-pupil spending gap

Knox County Schools show large per-pupil spending gap

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By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Knox County commissioners are considering a big school spending increase.     

One argument for that investment is that Knox County spends less per student than the state's top schools. 

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett says spending more doesn't necessarily translate to a better education.

The numbers show there's already a big difference in per-pupil spending within the county. During the 2010-11 school year, some schools spent almost twice as much per pupil as others.

However, 35 schools are Title I schools that receive federal funding.

The additional $35 million in proposed funding is what Knox County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre hopes will net results.

"Those additional resources can make a difference and make a true impact on student learning and student success," McIntyre said.

Mayor Burchett is still unconvinced the extra funding will help improve the county's test scores and increase the reading level. "The reality is, in this community, as in communities across the country, more money does not necessarily mean better test scores. At least it doesn't in Knox County," he said.  

A comparison of Austin-East Magnet school and Farragut High School shows a large disparity in the numbers.

A look at per pupil spending per pupil last year shows Farragut spent $3,710 on instruction per student, while Austin-East spent $7,101.  

The school's ACT scores were dramatically higher than average. Farragut's ACT average was 23.3 while Austin-East was 15.6. The state average was 19.

McIntyre argues that more resources are needed for schools in areas with lower income levels.

"If you have two school systems that have roughly or exactly the same concentration of school poverty, the school system that spends more per pupil is more likely to get better incomes on the ACT," Dr. McIntyre said.  

The mayor disagrees. "More money doesn't indicate better test scores. There are more factors that are at play here. You have the social-economic conditions, family settings, one parent families, and sometimes no parent families," he said.  

McIntyre says graduation rates and ACT scores have improved at Austin-East in the past few years. That's one reason he believes even more money should be spent on every student throughout the system.

"We're going to increase the per pupil spending at all of our schools. We're going to increase the investment that we make in every child in our school system," McIntyre said.  

The school system received around $384.67 million from the county last year.

Once federal and state dollars are factored in, county finance department records show Knox County Schools spent $518.85 million.  

Knox County Commission holds another budget hearing coming up on May 16. Commissioners are expected to vote on the budget May 30.

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