Difference of Opinion

Farragut_Republican asks, “are Knox County Schools underfunded?”

Well, in a word, yes. She raises a very valid concern about revenues from the wheel tax: while it was sold as funding for the schools, it seems that’s only about 16% true. Which makes me bristle all the more that Knox Co. officials keep comparing their share of State BEP funding to Oak Ridge, where local residents are paying $1,232 more per student than Knox County residents.

And I promise you, it isn’t from all those Knoxville residents driving to Oak Ridge to shop.

It troubles me to draw comparisons to our neighbor; there’s no question that the proximity and cooperation of these two cities is mutually beneficial. At the same time it’s a purely defensive position: it is our neighbor’s County Mayor leading the charge toward a change in state policy that would be devastating to us, and the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee from that same county seems to be signed on to the idea.

Mike’s Message

February 14, 2006

Dear Friend:

I am writing you to ask for your support as we seek to significantly improve the Basic Education Program (BEP)—the state’s current education funding system. Its current inequitable funding model denies our children of more than 40 million dollars each year. This is both unacceptable and intolerable.

In Knox County, our schools are good schools on their way to becoming great schools. Proper funding is one of the keys to our success. We can all be proud that we rank second among Tennessee’s 137 school systems in terms of local funding support for education. It is, however, disappointing that we rank almost dead last in terms of per-pupil dollars we receive from the state. Simply put, our children are not receiving proper funding from the state.

This is an inequity that we are working hard to correct. Our solution is simple. We need the state to return more of our local tax dollars to Knox County children.

A policy reform of this magnitude is a complex and difficult task. I compliment Senator Jamie Woodson, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, for her diligence, commitment, and support. I applaud her efforts to ensure that our children are no longer victims of inadequate funding.

Below are two recent articles from the Knoxville News Sentinel and the Metropulse regarding this priority. These articles highlight the BEP’s crippling deficiencies and show the importance of our call to action.

It is important that we make our state government aware of the BEP’s inherent problems as we continue to invest in the future of our children. Please encourage your state representatives to support the full and immediate reform of the current BEP formula. Also, please contact Governor Bredesen at 615.741.2001 or phil.bredesen@state.tn.us to voice your concern for our children’s future.

Working with the Knox County Commission and the Board of Education, we will do all we can for the 53,000 children who learn and grow daily in the Knox County School system. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at 215.HELP or mike@mikeragsdale2006.com.

Best regards,

Sen. Woodson and Mayor Ragsdale are both good people, with whom I agree on many issues. Unfortunately, they’re barking up the wrong tree on this one. When they begin paying the same property tax rates as Oak Ridgers and devoting the same percentage of those taxes to education, then I’ll start listening with a more sympatheic ear. At this point though, the argument just doesn’t fly.

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