by Martha Rose Woodward
Well, we narrowly dodged the tax bullet this week. Mayor Burchett put forth a budget that called for no new taxes. Superintendent McIntyre asked for $35 MILLION, that’s right, $35 MILLION more dollars saying he was going to provide every student with an IPAD so they could learn to read. His idea was that the students would carry the pads home with them and read, read, read. Yeah, right, and who believes that the students would make it home with the pads in one piece?
When the superintendent stands up and says he’s willing to cut his own salary and the salary of every person who works for the school system who is taking home a paycheck of over $60,000 per year, then, I will believe that he truly cares about the students. Otherwise, it was all a power play. He’s hoping he can become the most powerful politician in this county and, if he had been able to push this vote for $35 MILLION more dollars through, we may as well have sent the mayor home because he would have been powerless.
Tuesday’s meeting was long, longer, longest. (Would some people take the hint and stop talking so much?) When all the dust had settled, Commissioner Mike Hammond made a suggestion that, instead of raising taxes and funding $35 MILLION more dollars, they could take money out of the rainy day fund and use money left over from extra tax collections they had not anticipated and, do some more moving of things around, and low and behold, they had about $4 MILLION extra. Commissioner Hammond also asked the school system to focus on what is truly needed. Commissioner Larry Smith also spoke to the issue of cutting and trimming and looking for wasteful spending. “If you can’t find $4 million in a budget of nearly $500 million, you are not looking hard enough,” he said. 5 other commissioners agreed and the modified version of Mayor Burchett’s budget passed 7-4.
By the way, I was a teacher for 24 years (1975-1998 ) and I will tell you, every student who truly wanted to learn got a fabulous education. Some students barely learned anything because they fought the process from day one. Most students will learn in spite of poor lighting, worn textbooks, mediocre teachers and uncomfortable situations. The attitude of the students is what matters. Those attitudes come from the home and there is very little teachers, principals, or commissioners can do about family issues. Children can and will learn when a light goes on inside them.
Commissioner Briggs summed it up when he said, “The way to solve this problem is not cut, cut, cut, or tax, tax, tax, it is to grow, grow, grow. Let’s get some good paying jobs in Knox County and we will be able to afford what we want.”