State Budget 07-08

The Governor’s proposed 07-08 State Budget is online — 613 pages, a 3.4 MB PDF download (right-click, “save target as”). Certainly, most of us won’t master the details of the mammoth document, but it’s worth a peek. Maybe worth perusing the highlights, keeping the document on hand to reference as the session goes on.


Pie charts to the left and right illustrate where state revenues come from, and where the general fund revenues go. Click either one to bring up a larger, more readable version.

The largest part of the revenue pie (left), is sales tax revenue. The green slice (right) is funding for education — both K-12 and higher ed. Note that the largest slice of the expenditures pie is health & social services.

If education were a larger share of the pie, I suspect that over time, the health & social services part could shrink substantially, and people would still be better off.

If education were a larger share of the pie, our graduates would very likely have greater earning power, thereby contributing even more to the sales tax revenue part of the State’s general fund.

More money is not the answer by itself, but it’s a crucial part of the first steps needed to begin the process of improvement.

In Oak Ridge, we enjoy good standing in terms of educational quality; as such, we have a bit of experience regarding what works (and unfortunately, a little hard-earned experience with what doesn’t). The examples are many, varied, and quite specific, but the common thread is that all require the services of professional educators. The very best professional educators we can buy.

Just a couple of the programs utilized to gain measurable achievement are the reading recovery program in elementary schools, and the Algebra 1-T class at Oak Ridge High School. Reading Recovery provides one-on-one intervention for struggling readers in the earliest years, to prevent “losing” kids by third and fourth grades. From Kindgergarten to first and second grades, we learn to read; from third grade on, we read to learn.

By third grade, if you can’t read, you’re not learning, and falling faster and faster behind.

Algebra 1-T is a course at Oak Ridge High School for those students who struggle with math to the point that they are identified as being at risk of failing Algebra 1 — the “most often failed subject in the history of learning,” according to Dr. Bailey. Rather than being a one-hour class, as all other classes are, Algebra 1-T meets for an hour and a half (half takes up a “lunch class,” which all Freshmen and Sophomores have since they can’t leave campus for lunch), allowing extra time with the teacher each day, learning at a slightly slower pace.

The results have been outstanding.

The State must elevate education in its budgeting priorities, but perhaps a tiny part of that expenditure should be to catalogue programs that have been proven to work in school systems across the state. What works for one is not necessarily the panacea for another, but to have a list of proven resources available at the state level would be beneficial to all.

First though, we have to be able to begin moving forward rather than backward.

5 thoughts on “State Budget 07-08

  1. Netmom:

    My hat is off to you for having both the time to digest the things you research and the inclination to write cogently about them without appearing to be condescending. I think that is a rare skill (or art, perhaps).

    I believe more of us appreciate it than take the time to acknowledge the effort.

    Thank you — and, please, keep up the good work.

  2. “If education were a larger share of the pie, I suspect that over time, the health & social services part could shrink substantially, and people would still be better off.”

    Maybe? The problem I see right now is that we are living in what I would consider the most educated society that has ever existed and there is still a need for these programs.

    Shifting money from these programs on an accelerated pace to education would also have a detrimental effect on social and health services and could infact be counter productive.

    Governor Bredesen’s conservative, slow moving approach seems to be the best alternative. He is adding new money to education, attempting to solve the problem on a step by step basis and while it may assist in the future for the social and health programs to have a better funded system the pay off is quite a distance away.

    What is needed also is programs t attempt to solve this problem and it appears the boys as the Tennessee Department of Correction are making those moves. This is also “education” and will assist in the areas that were missed in the formal education process.

  3. Maybe instead of “a larger share of the pie,” I should have simply said “better funded.” I wasn’t necessarily suggesting that funding should be shifted from social services to education immediately, only that social services needs would likely decline with a better educated populace.

    I recognize that health and social services encompasses much more than TennCare and welfare. It also encompasses protecting against elder abuse, living and working arrangements for developmentally disabled adults, and much more. Those needs will not decline with improvements to education, but the subsidy of low income families would likely decrease over time, as would the reliance on a state health care program if more were covered under private insurance.

  4. That probably comes across more accurately.

    Better education will do several things as you mention. However, the problems will still be there consuming resources that can be spent in a more efficient style.

    The problems in education are also not only fiscal. There is parenting problems also. You and I and most readers of this blog are very concerned with education and understand the benefits. Therefore
    we assure that our children are involved in the process as they should be. We go to parent teacher conferences, attend PTO or are officers, attend school board meetings, go on field trips, and monitor daily work planners for homework and problems.

    However, too often I hear teachers say at Parent Teacher Conference, you aren’t the parent I need to see. Jake the Snake is doing as he should. However, Johnny that can’t read isn’t and his parents are NEVER here.

    So some of the money spent on social services should be used to get Johnny that can’t read’s parents involved in some manner. Maybe a joint venture between systems? They could be mutually complementing as opposed to mutually opposed to one another.

    And yes, I know it is already happening with social workers and psychologists in the school system but the effort could also be approached from your model.

  5. I guess what I am trying to say is when one sits on a funding body as opposed to a policy making body the responsibility lies with funding all aspects of government services to the best of one’s ability. The funding is being chased by all players in the game and sometimes things can’t be funded as adequately as those in charge of that program may wish. The trick is to keep the partners from fighting over the budget similar to what goes on at home between a husband and wife on the household budget. Some things just have to give.

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