State official: Allocation, needs for classrooms not always same
By: By JOHN BRANNON Messenger Staff Reporter
A Tennessee Department of Education official said there’s probably good reason the Obion County School System wants to build 12 new classrooms for its pre-kindergarten program instead of just five.
“Just because our funding formula says you are getting funding for five additional classrooms doesn’t mean that’s how many your district needs,” said education department director of communications Rachel Woods.
The department has allocated $435,267 — or $87,053 each — in Basic Education Program funds to the school board to pay construction costs of five classrooms.
“The state gave us its part of the money. It’s about 80 percent (of the construction costs),” said Obion County commissioner and budget committee chairman Danny Jowers.
The school board wants to build 12 new classrooms — four each at Hillcrest, South Fulton and Lake Road elementary schools — to accommodate its pre-K program.
Jowers challenges the school board about wanting to build 12 when the state funds only five.
Ms. Woods said the five classrooms are calculated not on grade by grade or school by school but on the number of students that attend the entire school system.
“This is important to understand,” she said. “It is very possible that the district needs 12 classrooms. Every school district spends additional local dollars above and beyond what the state funding formula says the district needs. Every district hires extra, every district buys additional educational material. The number, five, classrooms for your county school system is just mathematical computation saying how many dollars you will generate from the state based on how many students go to the county school system.
“It’s the absolute minimum the district needs. The construction formula generates dollars for construction whether you are building new classrooms or not.
“So if the (board) is saying, ‘We’ve planned it out, we’d like 12 new classrooms,’ there is probably a very good reason why they feel they need the seven extras.
“We do not tell school districts, ‘This is the number of classrooms you need.’ What we do is provide the district with dollars for construction based on the number of students. We are not saying they need (only) five. We are saying that because of the number of students in the district, they are entitled to dollars for five new classrooms. If they want to build 12, great. We’re not saying, ‘You can’t build 12.’ We’re saying, ‘We’re just going to fund five.’”
Published in The Messenger on 12.14.07