Knox County Schools budget recommendation includes magnet school, Project GRAD cuts

Local News

Knox County Schools superintendent Bob Thomas submitted his budget recommendation Wednesday for the district’s 2019 fiscal year. In the recommendation, Thomas included a number of adjustments, including a reduction of funding for all magnet schools. In addition, Sarah Moore Greene and Green Magnet Academy would cease to operate as magnet schools. The budget would also cut funding to Project GRAD by more than $1 million a year.

In a memo, Thomas said the reduction in funding for magnet schools would save the district $1 million. Thomas said all current magnet transfers would be honored and transportation for those students would continue.

Parents of students attending Green Magnet are upset about possibly losing the program. 

“I couldn’t believe they would actually cut our funding and eliminate our programs, or propose to eliminate our programs,” said Kerwin Frix. 

Both Sarah Moore Greene and Green Magnet have a minority population. 

“This is something that’s going to adversely impact a number of students who already feel like the system is against them a number of parents who already feel disengaged and disempowered,” said Quineka Moeton, who has a son at Green Magnet. 

Thomas says the cuts to Green Magnet and Sarah Moore Greene are only recommendations but they came after looking into parental involvement and academic performance. 

“To make sure we are targeting those resources in reading, math and science, and that’s not to say the Magnet portion of that is not valuable, it is and we will continue to look at that just based on the dialogue that we are having right now,” said Thomas.

More online: Read the full memo

In addition, Thomas said that five certified positions would be added to schools currently served by Project GRAD to provide reading and social-emotional support to those schools.

Thomas said the recommended Project GRAD cuts come on the heels of a study that showed attending a Project GRAD school didn’t correlate with an increase in the school’s graduation rate, adding that while there was a higher rate of college enrollment among Project GRAD participants, the college graduation rate was not higher.

Several unbudgeted positions added to the FY2018 budget would also be eliminated in FY2019. Thomas said they do not include critical need positions, like nurses, ELL restorative interventionists or special education teachers, among others. In addition, the district would take a new approach to gifted and talented services that will train teachers to provide the supports, allowing the district to reallocate several coaching positions. Thomas said these actions would save the district $500,000.

The FY2019 operating budget totals $483.3 million, a $12.1 million increase over FY2018. Thomas said initial projected expenditures showed a revenue of $3.2 million. That revenue number was reduced to $2.5 million during a subsequent review, so Thomas said “difficult decisions” were necessary to address the shortfall.

More online: Memo on increased expenditures

Thomas said his budget recommendation will allow Knox County Schools to extend teacher contract length, prioritize and maintain early literacy and behavioral and social-emotional supports, fund startup costs for the new Gibbs and Hardin Valley middle schools, while also meeting commitment towards increased expenditures for health insurance and a mandatory increase to the employer contribution rate to the teacher retirement plan. The budget will also allow the district to provide additional funding for student transportation and increased costs to the operation of Emerald Charter Academy.

The budget goes to the Board of Education for adoption on April 11.

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