Today, Director of Schools Del Phillips presented his balanced budget proposal to the School Board at a non-voting work session.
Here are some key highlights of the proposal:
- The elimination of school fees for grades K-8
- An increase in the instructional allocation for schools -- from $34 per student last year to $54 per student this year
- An approximately 2% raise for most teachers and school employees
- The addition of 50 new part-time interventionists -- certified teachers who will provided targeted instruction through the RTI2 framework
- The additional staffing needed for the opening of William Burrus Elementary
- The addition of school nurses to improve the nurse to student ratio from 1:1211 to 1:1054
This budget represents another step forward for Sumner County Schools. It eliminates K-8 school fees, gives employees a raise, adds key staff, and provides additional classroom resources.
In addition to the base raise for classified employees, the budget includes a range adjustment for bus drivers and custodians, who will see an increase of between $1.00 and $1.55 an hour. This is designed to keep our system competitive.
While there is much to applaud in this budget, the comparisons to other neighboring systems make clear we have more to do. For example, while this budget proposes the addition of 50 part-time interventionists, Williamson, Wilson, and Rutherford counties have an average of 48 full-time interventionists.
When it comes to school nurses, the proposed budget would allow us to improve our ratio by a reduction of over 150 students, our ratio will still be one nurse for every 1054 students. Neighboring counties average one nurse for every 854 students.
Our School Board, in cooperation with the County Commission, is digging out of a deep hole. For too long, parent fees and budget cuts were the norm. School Board meetings were focused on where to cut and what purchases to delay in order to function at acceptable capacity.
It's worth noting that both the County Commission's Budget Committee Chair and Education Committee Chair attended the budget presentation at the School Board. That's a new and welcome level of engagement by our County Commission.
And it should be mentioned that in the budget crisis of 2012, Strong Schools called on the Board and Commission to start the budget process earlier in order to allow more time for feedback and adjustments. This budget, presented in May, will avoid the crisis budgeting and last minute cuts of the past.
Our School Board and Dr. Phillips are to be commended for carefully and methodically digging their way out and pushing our school system forward.
As budgets like this year's become the norm, Sumner County Schools will continue on the path to building the excellent schools our community deserves.