By Steve Hunley

Legislators Show Board Members A Paddle

The Knox County Legislative delegation did a mighty interesting thing recently and folks ought to know about it.  Every member of the legislative delegation – – – Senators Randy McNally, Becky Duncan Massey and Richard Briggs, along with Representatives Eddie Mannis, Dave Wright, Justin Lafferty, Jason Zachary, Michele Carringer, Sam McKenzie and Gloria Johnson – – – signed a letter sent to Superintendent Bob Thomas, Board of Education Chair Susan Horn and Mayor Glenn Jacobs.  The letter was copied to every member of the Knox County Board of Education.

The legislative delegation pointed out the Tennessee General Assembly had approved $42 million in the Basic Education Formula (BEP) designated for teacher raises.  The legislators gently reminded board members it is the Local Education Authority (LEA), in this instance, the Knox County Board of Education, that has the ultimate authority to allocate the money appropriated for teacher raises to… teachers.  The legislative delegation specifically asked the board of education to use the money for teacher raises and to teachers ONLY.  The legislators were helpful inasmuch they defined in their letter just who they meant, stating, “For purposes of this pay increase, we consider the classroom teacher to be a person licensed to teach and who spends 50% or more of their time instructing students in the classroom, in the library, in the gym or other instructional means including online instruction.”

Then came the pointed part of the letter.  “Too many times in the past when the Legislature has passed salary increases for classroom teachers, the LEA has chosen to distribute the pay increase to other personnel including administrative personnel that is far removed from the classroom.”  In other words, the Knox County School system has taken the money allocated for teacher pay raises and divvied it up to give raises to most everybody, including the frequently highly paid folks in the Andrew Johnson Building.  Also, the Knox County School system is way over the number of employees the State of Tennessee will pay for, so there again, pay raises of say, $500, become considerably less once divided.  The Knox County legislative delegation noted that “defeats the purpose of the salary increases and further perpetuates the inaccurate narrative that the Legislature did not provide a pay increase for teachers.”

Most folks don’t realize teachers oftentimes receive raises from both the state and local governments.

So finally the legislators have tired of a practice the Knox County School system has used for decades.  It will be interesting to see if the board will do as the Knox County legislative delegations asks.  They should.  The emphasis should be on those folks at the forefront, which are the classroom teachers.



Dollar Dan Rides Again!

Daniel Watson, member of the Knox County Board of Education, seems to have taken Virginia Babb’s title as the board’s chief babbler.  It’s difficult to ascertain just what Watson has accomplished in the few months he’s been on the board.  The first thing he did was protest the idea he should be expected to help determine the board’s leadership. Ordinarily, the board would routinely elect a chair and vice chair, yet Danno objected.  He said he thought it more appropriate to participate in the meetings for a bit so he could have a better feeling about his colleagues.

What is the first thing ANY legislative body does?  Elects its officers of course.  The U. S. House of Representatives elects its speaker, the U. S. Senate elects its majority and minority leaders.  The Tennessee state Senate elects the lieutenant governor and the state House elects its speaker.  The county commission elects its chair and vice chair at its September meeting.

One would think someone running for the board of education would be at least somewhat informed about its functions and the people who serve on it.  It doesn’t seem wildly outlandish to suppose that someone elected in March, would have some sense of his colleagues by the following September when board members take the oath of office.  That also presupposes one is keeping up with board meetings and doings.   But no, Watson evidently likes things nice and slow, except maybe for the board meetings where he talks like a wind-up doll whose winder is stuck.

Now Watson thinks it’s necessary to delay doing an evaluation for the superintendent within the time prescribed by Tennessee state law because newly elected members might not have an opinion.  There may be no penalty expressly provided in the law for failing to comply with state law, but it sends a signal of incompetence more than caution.  Whether they like it or not, the board is obliged to follow state law, just like everybody else.  If someone isn’t prepared to make difficult decisions, he/she doesn’t belong in any public office.

Now Daniel seems to have no difficulty in taking the plunge when it’s none of his business.  Nope, Dan isn’t content to stay in his lane, so to speak.  Daniel Watson circulated an email to his colleagues on the board expressing his opinion members should back the proposal of City Councilwoman Gwen McKenzie to give away $100 million of taxpayer money.  Money that didn’t belong to the City of Knoxville or theirs to spend or give away for any reason, but Daniel didn’t see any reason to delay that for a single second.  Of course, there is also the fact they pledged money for unnamed and unspecified projects in the first place with money that doesn’t exist unless the city council has the will to triple taxes.

While Watson’s missive stated the money would come from federal, state, local and private grants, there are no such grants in the offing.  That also begs the important question, if these grants have existed, what exactly has kept the City of Knoxville from seeking them in the first place?  When you have a spare moment, telephone your city councilman and ask them why they haven’t been looking for such grants from those sources long before now?  Considering then-Mayor Madeline Rogero gave Indya Kincannon the vitally important task of recommending folks to serve on various City of Knoxville Boards to insure diversity, you’d think the City would have already employed someone to chase down grants.  Of course they do and of course they’ve chased grants.  Maybe they just haven’t chased them hard enough, I don’t know.

The City’s total budget is $330 million, so $100 million represents quite nearly a third of the City’s entire annual budget.  Watson urged his fellow board members to “reach out” to Mayor Indya Kincannon as well as the city council members to express their support for the give-away.

Watson urged his colleagues to take a stand on Gwen McKenzie’s resolution as he believed it would somehow affect the disparities in education.  Really?  That likely has more to do with the breakdown of the family units than anything else.  The highest per pupil expenditure in Knox County of all our high schools by far is Austin-East for example.  And Daniel, have you ever decried the City of Knoxville’s annexation policies which gobbled up sales taxes that would have otherwise gone to our school system?  No, you haven’t and I suspect you still haven’t a clue about that.  I wonder if you know how long it’s been since the city operated a school system?

Without any definite source of funding, the McKenzie resolution was little more than an empty gesture intended to placate some folks, which is precisely what more than a few of our community’s Black activists said at the time.

But Dollar Dan is too busy virtue signaling to realize fictional grants never helped the first child to read or add.  For that matter, virtue signaling never educated the first kid either.