Mar 19 2012
10:34 am

Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre has proposed a "bold" $35 million increase in the Knox County Schools budget. Knox Co. Mayor Tim Burchett says it will require a property tax increase, which he says ain't gonna happen.

What do you think?

Budget documents:

Key Educational Investment Proposal FY13-17
McIntyre Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Memo
Budget Overview FY12-13
Elementary School Staffing FY12-13
Middle School Staffing FY12-13
High School Staffing FY12-13
FY13 Budget Analysis
Return on Investment Report

News and editorial coverage:

McIntyre seeks extra $35M in 'bold' schools budget proposal
School board backs McIntyre's budget plan
Editorial: Investment vital to improving Knox County schools
Pam Strickland: McIntyre's school budget plan necessary

R. Neal's picture

Instructional Technology Avg.

Instructional Technology Avg. Annual Investment: $7.2m

Smart boards, tablets, wireless, e-books and other established and emerging technologies can help make student learning more efficient, challenging, and engaging. Within the next five years, the Knox County Schools will provide each student with a robust technology device to be used as a learning tool.

An iPad for every kid? Is that a good use of funds?

Community Schools Avg. Annual Investment: $1.0m

The concept of making the school the center of the community has been the focus of an innovative pilot program at Pond Gap Elementary School. This idea has proven successful in many schools across the country, and should be expanded to more schools, ensuring a broader opportunity for student success.

Agree with the concept, but what does this mean? Also, don't schools need to be IN the community to be the center of the community?

bizgrrl's picture

"robust technology

"robust technology device"

How robust is any technology device after 6 months?

Kids sure are hard to teach these days.

Stick's picture

The instructional technology

The instructional technology device fetish is but the latest in a long series of education fads going all the way back to the invention of the television. The medium doesn't matter. It's the learning activities that count. This will be a total waste of money.

The community school concept is being spearheaded by Dr. Bob Kronick over at UT, and he is doing some great work at Pond Gap.

Indya's picture

IT investments in proposed School Budget

Randy, thank for starting this thread and posting some links. I'm visiting family out of town over Spring Break, but will try to provide some pertinent info.

The IT investments will initially be for infrastructure improvements, so our schools can have wi-fi and sufficient electricity. Actual devices issued to each student will be icing on the cake, not the main investment. Currently only 17 of our 80+ facilities are wi-fi ready.

Why is technology an important tool for education?

1. On-line assessments will soon be required, as part of new Common Core Curriculum
2. Kids find Tech engaging, as a complement to traditional teaching methods
3. Quality IT at school can help bridge the digital divide
4. Theoretically textbooks can be replaced or greatly supplemented by digital content

More and more assessments are being done on-line, and soon that will become a requirement. While I'm concerned about too many assessments, and assessments being improperly interpreted, I think doing them on-line is an improvement for several reasons:

1. It takes less time. Most everyone would rather click on an answer than fill out a bubble. Also smart assessment gauge a student's mastery as they go, so if they demonstrate that they can do fractions well, then they can move on directly to another topic, or to harder levels of the same topic.

2. You can get results right away. This is a huge advantage, so tests can be used periodically throughout the year to identify strengths and weaknesses of given students, so teachers can re-teach or intervene as necessary, or move on when students are ready, not when some pacing guide says its time.

3. It can make assessments seamless parts of the school day, not high-pressure 4-day slogs every Spring, where kids aren't even allowed to read when they've completed the test.

My hope is that one day kids won't even know when exactly they're being assessed, it will be integrated into the learning. And if they don't demonstrate mastery, that won't be seen as a monumental failure by the student, teacher or school, but just a way to identify the shortcomings and try again. When kids play video games they expect to repeat levels until they master it. Defeats are temporary and surmountable, a challenge not a failure. Academic learning should be similar.

So this is not about 'I-Pads for all', although some kind of devices may be possible once the infrastructure is in place.


Stick's picture

Indya, thanks for your

Indya, thanks for your continued engagement on this forum. However, this statement:

My hope is that one day kids won't even know when exactly they're being assessed, it will be integrated into the learning.

... I find to be simply frightening.

Min's picture

As for me...

...I consider it disingenuous, in the extreme.

BTW if you don't want kids to know when they're being assessed, you really shouldn't build your entire education strategy around the results of standardized testing.

Indya's picture


My sentiment springs from my experience as a parent, seeing my kids get over-stressed about TCAPs. I think assessment has an important role, that shows that tests do motivate kids to really master a concept, more so than studying alone. It's just over-emphasized to some extent.

As both a student and a teacher one of the phrases I hated most was "Is this going to be on the test?" And if the answer was no some students would tune out.

I didn't mean to imply some Orwellian brain chip whereby 'knowledge' could be assessed in some ominous big brother way.

bizgrrl's picture

"Is this going to be on a

"Is this going to be on a test?"

This question is asked at all grade levels, on through college. I loved it when profs said, just assume everything will be on a test. Why else is the topic being discussed?

fischbobber's picture


Kids that are motivated to do well on tests tend to be competitive, in other words, they're motivated to win, not master a subject. Oh, sorry, didn't mean to bring up that pesky topic of the underwhelming support of extracurricular sports shown by the school board.

By the way, TSA ( Technology Student Association ) i.e. smart kid competition, wraps up in Chattanooga tomorrow. Good luck to all local kids competing.

Indya's picture

Community Schools

I wholeheartedly support the Community Schools effort. Stick is right that it's been spear-headed by Dr. Bob Kronick from UT. It's been tried at various schools at various times, but resources and commitment ebb and flow. The current effort at Pond Gap is funded through a generous donation by Randy Boyd. The school is open every day til later in the evening. There are resources for kids and their families, tutoring, computer time, library access, food, enrichment classes. I haven't been there this school year, but hear it's truly impressive, and becoming a true center of the Pond Gap community.

We have these great public facilities, that are under-utilized outside school hours. In our current budget we can't afford to staff schools for longer hours, or to coordinate more programs, but clearly there is demand and need for it, in some communities more than others.

Cincinnati schools are doing this well. They have a paid coordinator at each school to connect families to other services, e.g. health or job training. Schools have greater means to help kids obtain decent food, clothing and shelter, so they can learn. Often schools are asked to handle all these non-academic needs, but don't have the means to do so.


R. Neal's picture

Also, I haven't studied all

Also, I haven't studied all of this in any detail, but a cursory look doesn't suggest how the proposed "key investments" form an integrated approach to solving specific core problems v. just some programs thrown out there to "do something."

And, somebody in comments at the KNS actually makes a good point, comparing spending per pupil to outcomes. One of the highest spending nearby school systems has one of the worst outcomes. They also have the highest level of poverty.

Min's picture

Technology is a panacea.

It makes everyone feel like they're doing something important to improve education, without actually dealing with the very real problems affecting student learning. A clean building with a decent HVAC system, a safe playground/gym with the necessary equipment, and a cafeteria capable of producing a safe, healthy breakfast/lunch enhance the education environment a helluva lot more than white boards.

Teaching students effectively is not a function of technology. Everyone would agree that you need trained, dedicated teachers in the classroom, a secure, comfortable environment in which to learn, and sufficient scholastic texts and other supplies to support the education effort. But technology won't help a student whose parents are uninvolved/uncaring about their education, a student whose home life is so chaotic that he doesn't get enough rest or food, or a student who's dealing with addiction or gang affiliation or any of a hosts of other ills. These are the real issues affecting education that teachers deal with on a daily basis. These are also the issues for which technology, so far, offers no solution and for which teachers inexplicably are blamed by Republicans and others set on ending public education as an institution.

Indya's picture

strategic education investments


With all due respect, I disagree. This budget is more strategic than any I've ever seen.

When teachers talk to me the two things they say they need to do a better job is more support and more time. This budget proposal would provide more support in the form of more instructional coaches, more helpful Professional Development, more Lead teachers. These are all intended to help our current teachers grow and evolve as their students require. It also gives teachers more opportunities to vary their work while still staying directly involved in instruction.

As for more time, the proposed budget would add 5 instructional days to the school year. Of course more time isn't useful unless it's used wisely. Well, we've raised standards for teachers and students, raised expectations, increased the rigor, and now we need more time to reach these new higher goals. Most schools I visit seem to be going at a frenetic pace. Teachers, staff and students are working hard. Adding instructional time will help.

Money and time are necessary, but not sufficient, ingredients to getting better student outcomes. There are many essential components to a good school that cannot be readily bought, such as leadership and positive culture. We can and do invest in a Leadership Academy to give future principals some on-the-job training, before they are thrust into the daily pressures of the job. We can give teachers and students more support which can contribute to a stronger school culture.

Randy, which nearby school system spends more per capita and gets worse outcomes? I know several (Alcoa, Maryville, Oak Ridge) that spend more per capita, have higher teacher salaries, AND get better outcomes, even on value-added results (which measure growth, not just raw achievement, thus minimizing the effect of socio-economic status.)

In Knox County only 47% of our students are reading on grade level by 3rd grade. More than half of our students who took the ACT last year didn't score a 21 or higher. We are improving, but the rate of improvement is too slow.

I want to get better outcomes for students who are in school today. Incremental change is not going to get it done. Investing more in education will help us get better academic outcomes.

This proposal also divides the increase between operating and capital investments, so the growth in operating funds will be gradual, $7m/year until by Year Five the full $35m would go to operating costs.

This is a strategic budget.


R. Neal's picture

Indya, thanks for taking the

Indya, thanks for taking the time to comment and explain.

Here re the spending/outcome numbers someone posted in a comment at the KNS. I have not verified them.

Schools ---- ACT (2011)--%-Economically-Disadvantaged--Per-Pupil-Exp.

Union County-------18.3-------------80%-----------------------------$9,167
Knox County--------20.4-------------46%-----------------------------$8,508
Oak Ridge-----------23.1-------------45%-----------------------------$12,112

The point was that Union Co. has the worst ACT scores but also has the highest percent of economically disadvantaged students. Alcoa does well in this regard but spends more, so something is working. I think poverty is the root of many evils, including problems with education, and school budgets can't do much about that. I noticed the item for "Student Supports" for "interventions for struggling students" etc., and that would help offset but not overcome overcome lack of parental involvement and other issues related to poverty.

Regarding community schools, I like this idea a lot. Makes schools more of a community resource, and maybe it would help parents see more value and get more involved. I just wish that more schools were still actually in the communities (like in the "good old days"). It seems like economies of scale have driven budgets to take that away.

I'm mostly ambivalent about technology. I would have to study up on it some more, but it seems like there are lots of other issues that could be tackled first. But I agree that schools should have the infrastructure, if not for students at least for teachers and administrators to promote efficiency, resource sharing and the like.

Thanks again for your comments.

Indya's picture

comparative expenditures

I'm surprised that Union County spends more per capita than we do in Knox. Historically Union County was one of the only nearby districts that paid its teachers less.

Clearly spending more money in and of itself doesn't guarantee better outcomes. However, when you control for poverty levels, there's a lot of evidence that spending more gets better outcomes.

See p. 25 of the KCS Return on Investments report for a regression analysis. It compared districts across TN and concludes that when two districts have roughly equal poverty rates, the one that has higher per pupil spending gets better academic results, as measured by ACT scores.

Stick's picture

This budget proposal would

This budget proposal would provide more support in the form of more instructional coaches, more helpful Professional Development, more Lead teachers. These are all intended to help our current teachers grow and evolve as their students require. It also gives teachers more opportunities to vary their work while still staying directly involved in instruction.

How about creating more time/space for teachers to collaborate and mentor one another? Meaning: less instructional time and more prep time. That's what systems from Shanghai to Ontario to Helsinki are doing with a good deal of success. We always assume that we need to "bring in" expertise and assistance, but there is already a good deal of institutional knowledge present in any school. Let's professionalize our teachers and then provide them with the autonomy to act like professionals.

Indya's picture

more teacher prep time

I agree. I believe this budget proposal would significantly increase teacher preparation and collaboration time.

Min's picture

We've seen how that theory works in Tennessee...

Which is not well. Even though the law currently provides for 2 1/2 hours minimum of planning time each week for a teacher, school administrations conveniently categorize everything possible as "planning" activities, effectively eating up all or most of the teacher's planning time with mandated work meetings.

The teacher is left with little individual planning time, so that there is no real opportunity for teacher-driven collaboration. In addition, with the emphasis on standardized testing, there is no compelling incentive for a teacher to be experimental and creative, for fear of missing something that will be tested.

peixao's picture

Fudgy numbers and tech fetish

I'm skeptical about the technology $$$. These interactive whiteboard setups cost thousands per classroom, when ex-MIT and current Microsoft ace Johnny Chung Lee has the specs available online to build your own with 85% of the functionality for $60 plus a Wii remote. I would guess that there's a handful of people driving really nice boats out of all that.

I guess I just wonder if we're throwing in the towel by saying that education has to be more like video games to capture the kids' attention.

Also, the numbers that got Pam tied up in an argument on the comments here only deepen my mistrust of McIntyre. I mean, why not just be honest about it? And has anybody else read up on the Broad Foundation? I trust them as much as I trust Michelle Rhee. McIntyre still hasn't carved the fat from central office that I assumed a numbers guy was brought in for.

I know Knoxville doesn't pay what it should for the educational system it ought to want, but I don't trust the crowd downtown to get us there. School board is a rubber-stamp for McIntyre, so if they're salivating for the power to levy property tax hikes, I don't trust that little band of sycophants an inch. I've come to feel like education's just another racket, and while I'm not naive enough not to understand that the whole world's a racket, there's something about that sort of dirty business involving kids that makes it somehow filthier.

Indya's picture

Invest in Education

Dear KnoxViews readers,

I welcome your scrutiny and will do my best to study the budget proposal, ask questions, seek to improve it, and address concerns posted here and in other community forums.

I welcome your feedback and input. I also solicit your support for greater investment in public education.

Let's pay attention to how the money is invested, let's demand prudence and effectiveness. I hope many of you will join our efforts to improve our public schools, and greater investment has to be part of that effort.


Indya Kincannon

alan swartz's picture

I have a question


I do not understand this.


When I take $457,554,600 and subtract $384,670,000 I get $72,884,600.

I do not get $35,000,000.

Can you explain?



Indya's picture

natural growth PLUS structural investment

Hi Alan,

This is confusing, but I will try to clarify.

This proposal asks for schools to get the typical share of natural revenue growth, PLUS an investment of $35m/year.

The $35m per year increase would initially go primarily to capital investments, but gradually (20%/year) migrate over to the operating budget.

Since this (FY12) fiscal year is 3/4 over, we have a lot of actual data on revenues, so the proposal projects a 3.2% natural increase in tax revenues. By 'natural' I mean thanks to a better economy rather than a tax increase. That is the $12.45m under FY13.

In the next 4 years the proposal conservatively estimates 1.5% natural revenue growth, which is about $6.5m per year.

On top of that natural revenue growth, this proposal asks for $35m increased investment in education. Absent Draconian cuts to all other government services, which I do NOT condone, this would require a tax increase.

Schools currently get 72% of sales tax revenues from both Knoxville and Knox County. Our share of property tax revenues is not pre-determined.

I hope that makes better sense.


reform4's picture

If done properly...


Thanks, I can see howl tablets can be used in certain situations to dramatically improve the learning of certain subjects, particularly in science and mathematics. Simulations of electrical circuit, intimations of mechanics and planetary bodies, there are some amazing learning application out there for the iPad. That can make difficult concept easier to grasp , and even entertaining.

I would also agree that the idea of instant quiz feedback in a classroom, you could see things like 80% of the class got the same problem wrong, with immediate corrective action, that would be a great tool

Obviously if you have a hammer, not every problem is a nail, but I would love to see a pilot project at the STEM academy with the iPad as soon as we could field it.

Min's picture


Can I get a piece of that action?

Indya's picture

I-Pads, formative assessment

Thanks to an outside grant, every student at the L&N STEM Academy has his or her own I-Pad. Kids love it, teachers too.

Does it generate better academic outcomes? Does it cost more or save money? To be determined. But it's a good case study.

All schools do some form of formative assessment, i.e. interim tests with quick feedback. It's sort of like quizzes I suppose, but more strategically deployed. Some schools do formative assessments on computers, others still use paper and pencil.


Lance's picture

iPads at STEM


Clearly, the STEM school project is not set up to make comparisons with results at other schools. Inasmuch as all STEM school students will have iPads, a study of the effects of iPad use vs. non-use is impossible.

Could you say more about the plans to document experiences at the STEM school? Who is responsible for evaluating the results and documenting problems and successes? Is it an independent researcher, or someone who comes into the work with a stake in the outcome? Where could the public read the study design? When will results be provided to the school board?

Thanks for your commitment to our public schools.

Indya's picture

STEM Academy


There is on-going evaluation of various initiatives, including innovations at the L&N STEM Academy, but I don't know the details. Our in-house evaluation staff consists of about two people, so it's hard to evaluate as much as we'd like. And perfectly designed experiments, controlling for all external variables, are very difficult to do in real-world educational settings.

While the student body of the STEM Academy is diverse- racially, economically, geographically, it certainly is not an average group of students because they have demonstrated a particularly keen interest in STEM topics, enough to choose a school distinct from their base school.

Evaluation has not been KCS's strong suit, but that is changing. I am in the process of reading a first-ever Return on Investment report that sheds light on a lot of things. It's 89 pages, and available at


kcarson's picture

STEM School

reform4, I'm not sure what you are asking when you say you'd like to see a pilot project at the STEM school for IPad. The STEM school opened and has worked exclusively with the IPad. No textbooks, calendar and assignments are scanned in etc. We are trying to utilize their experiences this past year in our determinations of how to move forward with technology in all of our schools. I would add that the move to technology does not mean that we believe the IPad is the appropriate tool for each child at each grade level. I believe that it will vary in different ages, applications and uses throughout. Many see this as the way to educate kids because of the "entertainment" value. I suggest that to not go this route is a denial of how the world and workforce are today. I can tell you that my use of technology (IPad, smartphone and computer) in the hospital setting is dramatically different than it was even 5 years ago. Given that, I must say that I also believe that it can't and shouldn't replace some of those things that I believe are "foundational" knowledge. For example, even though calculators are readily available, I still think kids need to know how to do basic math, + - ./. x , make change etc. As for budget needs, I have asked that if you believe there is an area that is still fat in the school budget, please pass that on to us and we will look into it. Many like to say central office if overstaffed. I can say that we have had it analyzed in an outside review and we've compared numbers to systems of similar size and make up and have found that KCS doesn't have indicators of being overstaffed in that area. However, I ask those that differ in their opinion to give me some data/information that supports that belief. Tell me specifically which positions should be cut etc.
Appreciate the discussion.

peixao's picture

Comment & a question


Can you point us to the study comparing central office staffing to other districts? The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did an interesting comparison within the last handful of years, but I've never seen reports of one in the Sentinel here.

Also, can anybody tell me what happened to the TIP program, which was supposed to lure "star" teachers from the suburban schools to the inner-city schools with a yearly bonus of $10k? I'd love to see the data on how they performed with a very different population. Thanks!

kcarson's picture

Will do

Everyone is out on spring break but I will get the comparative data next week and post.

kcarson's picture

staffing budget

Take a look at the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) review of the 100 largest school systems in the United States. This is from 2008-2009 and is the most recent analysis they have available at this time. (link...)

reform4's picture


I wasn't aware that was already in place,. that is excellent! And I would caution everyone against drawing conclusions from just a few years of data, as the technology, I would think, is still in its infancy in terms of how to apply the hardware to teaching strategies. I suspect some of the better software to do this is still being developed, and better tools will come out every year. It's like the first computers we used at work for word processing and basic spreadsheets- we could not forsee the possible future uses initially.

In the back of my head, I'd like to teach HS physics part time, and I can imagine lots of neat tools for the iPad to teach some of the more difficult concepts more easily. I recall seeing a simple gravity and orbital mechanics simulation for the Apple II that really put it all together for me.

I assume the comments about budget needs were aimed at somebody else? I don't subscribe to the criticism that the school budget is "fat", or that the central office is overstaffed. I've said for a long time KCS does a good job with limited funds. So, I hope that was meant for somebody else!!!

Rooster2's picture

McIntyre's decision making

Since the budget was promoted as going tinto the classroom, I wonder how McIntyre and the BOE can justify this:

"FormerCity Council member Marilyn Roddy has been chosen as KARST project manager by a 9-member advisory board. Her $77,000 salary is funded through the Race to the Top grant and she will be based at the L&N STEM Academy."


It looks like McIntyre is getting away with stuffthat a Hutchison or a Burchette would be run out of town for doing.

When is this nonsense going to end?

And is Betty Sue Sparks taking both retirement and another salary?


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