The Schools Budget Difficulty

People do wonder why balancing a school system budget is trying, even in a generous, supportive city like Oak Ridge.

There are several reasons, but one that affects nearly every school system in the state is that teachers are funded at the system level (according to the number of students), but the state-mandated class sizes must be applied at the school level. So, if we’re one student over the class-size limits at school A, and ten under at school B, we have to hire an extra teacher for school A (who is not funded by the state). If we don’t, there’s a $50,000 fine. The alternative would be to shuffle students between schools every year. I can just imagine how thrilled parents would be with that idea… not to mention that it would be very disruptive to instruction.

The problem is not unique to Oak Ridge; every school system has the same difficulty unless they only have one school containing each grade level.

In our case, the State funds 259 teachers (actually, 65% of the BEP salary for 259 teachers); however, we have 336.65 teachers, most of whom are required to meet the class size mandate. That difference of 77.65 teachers amounts to $10,792,417 that has to be funded exclusively from local sources.

Adding insult to injury are a 20% increase in the cost of electricity; 45% increase in the cost of natural gas to heat the schools; and a whopping 62% increase in the cost of diesel fuel and gasoline.

The key difference between the school system and every other business or homeowner is that we are wholly dependent on revenues allocated by others, and obligated to fund things that are not paid for by those creating the mandates.

Bless the citizens of this city, who do all that they do voluntarily. You just don’t know what a difference you make.

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