With the new fiscal year comes a new proposed budget for Knox County Schools. This
$471 million budget would include a three percent raise for teachers, but would cut funding for the Project Grad and Magnet programs at Fulton High, Beaumont Elementary, and other high-needs schools.
While the parents and teachers at these schools are outraged, KCS Superintendent Bob Thomas defends the cuts as necessary for the development of the new Gibbs and Hardin Valley middle schools. Thomas also cites funds for student transportation and operation of Emerald Charter Academy as additional costs.
The Board of Education originally scheduled the budget vote for April 11. However, after an unprecedented public forum during the April 9 meeting, board members agreed to push the vote back to Monday, April 30.
This April 9 meeting lasted over seven hours with a record number of 87 people signed up for the public forum to speak in defense of GRAD and magnet programs and against the budget.
One of those who spoke out was Fulton High School English teacher Beth Nelson. In her speech, Nelson makes compelling points, citing multiple statistics and reasons why GRAD is beneficial and should be kept. Even giving an outlook on the state of the students at Fulton, saying,
“Somewhere around 78% of our students are economically disadvantaged, 24% qualify for SPED services, and 25% are either currently in ELL classes or have received ELL services in the past. Her viewpoint sheds some light on how critical this program really is to schools such as Fulton, providing students with mentorship, a safer environment, and economic support.
The general public consensus on this budget could be best summarized by Fulton English teacher Sandy Lanzoni. “This proposed budget and its suggested cuts feels reductive and unimaginative to me. My hope is the board will find a more creative way to spread the shortfall over other places.”