I Don't Know How

I previously spent four years on the commission, I spent four years on the school board and now I back on commission and I still don't know how to correct the misinformation that gets put out by some in the education system.

Monday a week ago, commission held a public hearing on the proposed 2015-2016 county budget. The only topic discussed by those who addressed commission was the school budget and the need for more money. This past Monday was the meeting for commission to actually adopt the new budget. Again, the only topic discussed by those addressing the commission was the need for more money for schools.

Over and over and over, it has been shown to school administrators that the school board has millions of dollars in their reserves, fund balance or what ever they want to call it. We have provided them with documentation from the state audit, the county finance department and other factual sources that show beyond a doubt that they have the money. In fact, they have added nearly five million dollars to the fund balance in the last five years. Yet, all we hear is "we're running out of money".

The next argument that always comes up is that we don't pay out teachers as well as other school systems. Again, documentation has been provided from the Department Of Education and the Tennessee Education Association that proves this is not true. Certainly, Loudon County teachers are not the highest paid educators in the state but when you compare other like school systems across the state, Loudon County comes in right at the top for pay and benefits.

Another common complaint is that since we supposedly under pay our teachers we're losing the "best and brightest" teachers to other systems for higher pay. I don't know how or why administrators and even a couple of board members would continue to make such statements. For one thing, it's just not true. Secondly, I find it insulting to the excellent teachers who man the class rooms of Loudon County schools. I'm sure there are cases of teachers leaving for more money but the stats just don't bear out such a statement.

Well over half of the teachers in the Loudon County school system, 182, have been teaching in Loudon County for 10 to 34 years. That seems to pretty clearly show that many of our teachers have chosen to stay with Loudon County for the long term. This, even after the school board offers retirement incentives to what could only be considered their most experienced teachers.

Lastly is the complaint that Loudon County lags behind in per pupil spending and that some how is lowering achievement. The fact, according to the Department Of Education, is that per pupil spending in Loudon County for 2014-2015 was $8,942.00. That puts Loudon County per pupil spending higher than way more than half of the 136 school systems in the state.

As far as per pupil spending as it relates to a quality education, one of the highest per pupil spending systems in the country, Washington DC comes in at $17,953 per pupil spending yet it is ranked as the worst school system in America.

Back to the beginning, it doesn't seem to matter at all what the truth is. Facts don't seem to matter when they collide with fiction. I guess folks will believe what they choose to believe.