Tag Archives: funds

Cut to School Internet Funding Draws Complaints

Under Governor Bill Haslam’s proposed budget for next year, reports WKRN-TV, Tennessee schools would lose $2 million of Internet access funding.
The idea is raising questions on both Capitol Hill and in classrooms statewide.
The administration wants to see school districts absorb the cost; however that is not sitting well with some teachers including Macon County fifth grade teacher Nikki Hogin.
“My district has trouble keeping up with the money,” she said.
State Senator Jim Tracy knows the cost to local governments in his district that would have to pick up the cost of the school Internet access.
“For example in Rutherford County it’s about $80,000 dollars, in Bedford County its about $20,000 dollars,” he said.
The Senator hopes to restore the money to Governor Haslam’s budget since state-mandated online testing begins next year.
“You have to be able to do online testing, that’s something that’s coming down that’s required,” Tracy said.
Governor Bill Haslam’s administration said it believes local districts “can absorb the cost” that is spread statewide and that “districts would still be eligible for match funding from the federal government” that brings in an additional $6 million for the Internet access.
“I have explained to them in great detail how important it is,” Tracy said.
According to Haslam spokesman Dave Smith, “These were cuts first identified as reductions in the FY 2010-11 budget, but delayed until this year using federal one-time money. In evaluating funding priorities, the department sought to restore money for several important items to Tennesseans.”

Johnson County Employee Arrested for Stealing Funds

News release from TBI:
Johnson City, Tenn. – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation today arrested a former county employee for her role in a theft case involving funds from the Johnson County Solid Waste Transfer station after she was indicted by the Johnson County grand jury late last week.
Kelly Horne, 44, of Tanglewood Drive, Mountain City, Tenn. was charged with one count of theft over $10,000, four counts of forgery, four counts of hindering a secured creditor and one count of official misconduct. All the charges are felonies. Horne began working as the secretary for the Johnson County Mayor in September of 2010 where she was responsible for depositing checks and cash from residents who paid a fee to the Johnson County Solid Waste Transfer station. Between September 2010 and August 2011, Horne took more than $40,000 dollars from those funds for her personal use.
Between August 2009 and June 2010 on four different occasions, Horne signed the names of other individuals on four discharge of lien forms for three of Horne’s personal vehicles and applied for new titles. Horne had worked in the Johnson County Clerk’s office before being employed in the mayor’s office. The official misconduct charge was for committing the offenses was working as a public servant and using the county position for personal gain.
The 1st Judicial District Attorney General’s office requested the TBI investigation following a Tennessee Comptroller’s audit of the Johnson County Mayor’s office. Horne was booked into the Johnson County Jail today on a $15,000 bond. She is scheduled to appear in criminal court on April 18, 2012.

Duncan Defends Paying Family With Campaign Funds

U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. is defending his decision to pay $7,600 in salary to his sister, son and niece for working on his campaign in light of a new report that questions the practice, reports Michael Collins.
The report, by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, accuses Congress members of using their positions to financially benefit themselves and their families. (Note: The full report is HERE. In the Tennessee section, there are also items on Marsha Blackburn, Jim Cooper, Chuck Fleischmann, Stephen Fincher and Scott DesJarlais.)
“This report shows lawmakers still haven’t learned it is wrong to trade on their positions as elected leaders to benefit themselves and their families,” said Melanie Sloan, the organization’s executive director.
Campaign funds can be used to make salary payments to members of a candidate’s family as long as the family member is providing a bona fide service to the campaign and is paid fair market value. But the question of whether a payment constitutes fair market value can be difficult to determine and is rarely challenged, the report said.

According to the report, Duncan’s campaign paid $4,500 in salary to his sister, Becky Duncan Massey; $2,100 to his son, Zane; and $1,000 to his niece, Courtney Massey Kohlhepp. All of the payments were made during the 2010 election cycle, which covers two years.

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Fed Subsidy of Charter Schools Disappears

Until now, new charter schools in Tennessee got between $600,000 and $700,000 in federal grants to cover startup costs in their first three years, including big-ticket items such as building leases. But the money has dried up, reports the Commercial Appeal.
“It’s a significant strain to say the least,” said Freedom Prep principal Roblin Webb. “That’s the money you use to find and lease facilities, pay your teachers. “We could not have started without the money. This is huge.”
Former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton expects he will have to delay opening of several of the seven charter schools he hoped to open in the fall of 2012 in Orleans Elementary, Manassas High and Booker T. Washington High in Memphis.
“In all candor, I was shocked to hear the new startups would not have necessary ingredients to launch new programs,” he said. He plans to seek funding from philanthropic and corporate sources.
For years, Tennessee charter operators got $225,000 to use the year before the school opened, followed by another $250,000 to cover operational costs before state per-pupil tax money began flowing to the schools, said Rich Haglund, director of charter schools at the state Department of Education.
“If a school opened with 100 students, they would get one-tenth of their (Basic Education Program tax funds) that August. That is not going to pay their operational costs,” he said.

Germantown Clerk Admits Theft of City Funds

GERMANTOWN, Tenn. (AP) — A deputy court clerk in Germantown has resigned and an audit of city funds will be turned over to the district attorney’s office.
A city spokesman stated in a news release on Tuesday that Janet Donnell resigned after the accounting manager discovered a discrepancy.
City officials said Donnell admitted the theft and is cooperating with investigators, according to The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/u1OGxo).
Germantown City Administrator Patrick Lawton declined to say how much money was missing,
Donnell, of Memphis, is 44 years old and made nearly $41,000 annually.

Fleischmann Uses Campaign Funds to Pay Staffer’s Legal Fees

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann’s main campaign committee used campaign donations to pay legal expenses for Chip Saltsman, the congressman’s chief of staff, the Chattanooga TFP reports after a review of finance records.
On July 1, the campaign spent $7,565.38 on Waddey & Patterson P.C., the Nashville firm defending Saltsman. He is accused in a lawsuit of defaming and slandering an aide to Robin Smith, Fleischmann’s chief 3rd District GOP primary opponent last year.
Neither Fleischmann nor the congressman’s principal campaign committee is named as a defendant in the Davidson County Circuit Court lawsuit. But Fleischmann’s office did consult with the federal agency that oversees election law, which determined that using donations to defend Saltsman was allowable.
Of seven donors interviewed Friday, including attorney Stuart Brown and accountant Tom Decosimo, most had no issue with the campaign’s actions. One woman who did not want to be named said she couldn’t figure out why her donation was diverted to “Saltsman’s legal problems in Nashville.”
“The monies that go toward Chuck and his staff — it’s a judgment call,” said Brown, who donated $250 to Fleischmann. “To me, it’s all politically motivated. If it frees up Chip, I’m fine with it.”
…The Smith aide, Mark Winslow, served as the Tennessee Republican Party’s chief of staff while Smith was chairman. He became Smith’s media director during last year’s primary. Saltsman ran Fleischmann’s campaign and now heads the congressman’s Washington, D.C., staff.
Winslow’s lawsuit refers to Saltsman’s alleged actions as a campaign consultant to Fleischmann. It states that Saltsman “improperly obtained” Winslow’s confidential employment records with the state GOP, slandering him in the process.
Saltsman has denied the allegations, asking “that Winslow recover nothing in this action,” court documents show.

Comptroller Reviews RTT Spending

News release from Comptroller’s Office:
Tennessee school districts are using Race to the Top funds to implement a wide variety of programs designed to improve student performance, according to a report released today by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury’s Offices of Research and Education Accountability (OREA). Among other planned expenditures, school districts intend to use their shares of the money to fund instructional coaches with specialized training, incentive pay for teachers and leadership courses.
The report, “Scopes of Work: How Select Districts Are Using Race to the Top Funds,” profiles a sample of school districts and how they intend to spend their share of Race to the Top funds.
The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) awarded Tennessee approximately $500 million in Race to the Top funding in March of 2010. The funds will be distributed over a four-year period. USDOE required Tennessee to split the funds evenly between state and local expenditures. The $250 million for local expenditures will be distributed in grants based on scopes of work documents school districts filed with the Tennessee Department of Education.
Individual district grants range from approximately $44,665 (Richard City Special School District) to $68.6 million (Memphis City Schools). Most districts (70 out of 136) received grants between $500,000 and $2 million for the four-year period.
School districts’ scopes of work show considerable diversity, both in the programs and activities they have chosen to fund and the time frames for the expenditures. In total, districts chose to spend approximately $20 million for instructional coaches. These are experienced teachers with knowledge of research-based instructional strategies. They train school personnel and help implement best practices.
Other notable expenses included school leadership training, at $17.5 million, and differentiated pay plans, at $16.9 million. Differentiated pay plans offer bonuses, including performance or signing bonuses, which supplement teacher salaries and provide additional pay for teaching hard to staff subjects or hard to staff schools.
Many districts chose to frontload their spending in the first year of the grants and decrease spending incrementally over the next three years.
“School districts are spending their Race to the Top funds on a number of strategies for improving student achievement,” said Nneka Norman-Gordon, OREA legislative research analyst and co-author of the report. “Time will tell if these spending decisions have the desired effects. OREA will continue to monitor district results.”
OREA is an agency within the Comptroller’s Office that is charged with providing accurate and objective policy research and analysis for the Tennessee General Assembly and the public.
The legislative brief may be viewed at: http://www.comptroller1.state.tn.us/OREA/