By Sally Absher


In last week’s article on the FY16 KCS budget, the Focus noted that Dr. McIntyre defended his unilateral approval of the $27,900 grant contract with The Broad Center (TBC) by citing Board Policy DM, which states that “The Knox County Board of Education authorizes the Superintendent to accept receipt of grant awards with the following exceptions: 1. Where the grant award is new and exceeds $50,000 over the total grant period…”

We learned from Board Member Patti Bounds that the policy states, as exception 4, “Where there is a “matching” requirement during the total period of the grant that requires a general fund or other grant fund obligation.”

There is a matching requirement.

The contract states, “Your organization has agreed to provide matching funds in the amount of $60,300 [calculated at 67% of Resident salary] (the “Matching Funds”) to support Resident’s position in your organization…”

Thus, it is apparent that Superintendent McIntyre not only signed a grant contract which he was not authorized to sign, misrepresented the conditions of the grant, cited a BOE Policy as his rationale (even though that policy violates state statute), and yet failed to follow the terms of that policy as indicated above. McIntyre told WBIR, “The district has entered into this same grant agreement with the Broad Foundation four times.”


Former Balanced Calendar Proponent Has Second Thoughts.

In case you missed it, the KNS ran an OpEd last week by David Page, PhD. We contacted Page and asked if we could share some of his letter. He graciously agreed.

In 2007, Page, who holds a PhD in engineering from UTK, wrote as a community columnist in the News Sentinel that KCS should adopt a year-round calendar, i.e., a balanced calendar. He cited “summer regression” as the reason.

But Page has now discovered that the research on modified calendars is “at best mixed and at worst fails to show any advantage. More importantly, to the extent summer regression is an issue, primarily among low income students, modified calendars are not the solution.

Page cites Paul Von Hippel, a sociologist at Ohio State U, who says, “year-round schools don’t solve the problem of the summer learning setback – they simply spread it out across the year.”

Page also dispels the myth that because traditional calendars harken back to the harvest cycle of farmers, and we are no longer farmers, the traditional calendar is bad and must be replaced.

Finally, Page suggests that summer breaks are “a valuable education opportunity for children. Not in the traditional book-learning education, but in the creative skills that children gain during summer breaks,” which is not measured by tests.


More hidden Facts About Year Round Education.

We have heard some say, “Maybe we should try balanced calendar, and see if it works. We can always go back to the traditional calendar.”

But…there is a huge fiscal liability to that way of thinking. It has to do with “maintenance of effort.” Once the School Board approves a budget, it is sent to Mayor to be included in county budget. County Commission then has the final say on the appropriations for the county and KCS.

The commission can only approve a total dollar amount. The school board determines how those dollars are spent. Under state statute, commission can’t reduce the total budget amount approved from the previous year. The current approved funding levels must be maintained into the following year (called “maintenance of effort”), which along with revenue growth, is why the KCS budget has grown over $110M since 2008.

If a balanced calendar is approved, the Board will add $20M* to what they will be requesting for the 2016-17 school year. Remember, the budget will include a major chunk of change for capital construction, since they just approved three new schools in the Capital Plan.

The bottom line is that if the Commission approves a budget including YRE, and we as a community “try” it for a year or two and then everyone screams to go back to a traditional calendar, the school system gets to keep the $20M to use on whatever the latest and greatest reform initiative may be. Could this be McIntyre’s real reason for pushing year round education?


* Note there are no actual cost estimates available, but McIntyre has reportedly said the cost would be “somewhere between $0 and 20M”


Good News, Bad News on Vouchers.

The good news – last week, Rep. Bill Dunn pulled his voucher bill (HB 1049) off notice until next year, citing “pressure from back home.” Thanks to everyone who called and wrote, requesting that we keep our public tax dollars in our public schools, and not give them away to private schools and charter management companies.

The bad news – the House voted 52 to 43 to approve Rep. Moody’s IEP voucher bill (HB 0128). This is a disaster. In order to get this bill through, legislators whittled it down to include only students with specific disabilities. Only 18,000 (of the 120,000 students with disabilities) are eligible.

The state estimates only 1-2% of eligible students would use these vouchers (since parents, to obtain a voucher, would have to give up their due process afforded under IDEA). This law creates a program to benefit 180-360 children across the state. It will require an expensive, dedicated new department and staff at the TN DOE to manage it.

This is how vouchers got their foot in the door in other states, too. “Similar programs in both Florida and Arizona started small and expanded – Florida’s now costs more than $150 million annually. And the Florida program has been plagued with fraud and abuse,” wrote Andy Spears, an expert on education issues in TN.