Director of Schools Dale Lynch has been strangely quiet lately.
No front-page picture with smiling face telling everyone that increasing the local sales tax would be just wonderful. He's usually not one to back away from a fight. Could it be that even he finds it hard to ask county voters to tax themselves in part to help city taxpayers get a property tax cut?
Then again, maybe the Tribune is saving the good doctor for the final sales tax front-page advertising push on Monday.
There has been no mention of how the schools would actually use any increased sales tax revenue. Of course, there has also been no mention of how the schools have used the $5 Million in extra BEP money that was received earlier this year.
No mention of the existing school construction debt of $35 Million+ or - from the 1998 school construction program on which the county has spent millions in interest for years without paying a penny toward reducing the principal of the debt.
No mention of the $500,000 that the school system has paid to the county every year to help make the interest-only payments on the 1998 school construction program.
No one should worry too much about Dr. Lynch's silence. The good Dr. Lynch will be talking up a storm and he will find a way to spend every penny that comes his way---and more. The good Dr. Lynch and the Hamblen County School Board will be draining the taxpayers dry this year and next and the next.
Educational programs are started--e.g the vaunted Gateway Testing program--are pushed for a few years as a great educational innovation and then forgotten. And the layers and layers of administrative staff just grow and grow.
And student progress? Well, they always say that more money will somehow "improve" education. $5 million dollars in new BEP funding for Hamblen County was provided this school year. What improvements were made? Did any dollars go toward teacher merit pay? Did any dollars go to hire teachers in critical and hard to fill areas like physics, calculus, and advanced English?
I am happy to see that there is increased emphasis on the basics again. The 3 R's (reading, writing, and arithmetic) must be pushed in the early grades. Working toward improvement in the basics doesn't necessarily require any more money. What it does require, however, is a curriculum that stresses these skills and allots enough TIME for student mastery in the primary grades.
Money and education are not necessarily synonymous. However, when it comes to (tax) money and education, two things are certain:
1. You can bet your bottom (tax) dollar that Dr. Lynch, the school board, the city, and the county commission will never have enough of your (tax) dollars!
2. And some people in Hamblen County--particularly those at the upper economic levels--think that every dollar that is appropriated for the education budget is truly a dollar for "education." They haven't yet realized or won't admit that tax dollars in the "education" budget can be shifted, wasted, and manipulated just like tax dollars in any other city or county budget.
That's why someone needs to watch the school spending closely.