$4.2 Million School Grant Targets Transportation and Educational Needs




The Weakley County Commission approved a General Purpose School Fund resolution, during its Thursday, March 16, meeting, budgeting $4,235,650 in additional grant funding for the current fiscal year. The grant involves no local monies, and received unanimous board approval, with 17 members present and one absent.

The resolution allocates $35,650 in funding through the State of Tennessee, to help school systems provide for the needs of high-cost students with disabilities, based on special education expenditures. This resolution reimburses the school system for special education bussing needs.

Additionally, the resolution budgets $4,200,000 in state funding through an Innovative School Model Grant, to provide resources, support, and sustainability between schools, the workforce, and post-secondary opportunities.

According to Director of Weakley County Schools Randy Frazier, Dresden and Westview high schools received $1 million, Gleason and Greenfield K-12 schools were awarded $500,000 each, Sharon School got $200,000, and the Dresden and Martin middle schools received $500,000 each.

Frazier stated Weakley County Schools were able to have their own advisory board, come up with their budget and look for programs they want to expand in the career tech field. This will be monies that will be spent over the next three years from the state, and involve no local dollars.

Prior to being brought before the full Weakley County Commission, the resolution passed unanimously through the Finance, Ways and Means Committee. However, it failed to pass through the Health, Education and Economic Development Committee by a vote of 3-2, due to some of the commissioners wanting more information before voting to accept the grant funding.

During HEED Committee deliberations, Commissioner Brian Donavant expressed his concern regarding approving the resolution until he sees a detailed plan for the expenditure of the grant funding.

However, during Thursday night’s Weakley County Commission meeting, Donavant said, “I just want to express to Mr. Frazier and to his team my appreciation for following up with some additional information (about the $4,235,650 grant). It was very helpful for me, and I just want to go on the record and say that after we received that information, I am beyond impressed with the comprehensive nature of that.”

Commissioner Larry Kelly said that he concurred with Donavant concerning the information about the grant. However, he expressed concerns about the financial aspects of it. Kelly said, “You say it’s going to be $4,000 per student?”

Frazier stated that he doesn’t know for sure, because the state hasn’t finalized those numbers yet. The $4,000 is an estimate.

This refers to the amount of money the state provides for each student enrolled in the various classes. The classes are weighted, so some classes generate more state money to support these classes.

Kelly asked what would happen after the four-year grant was concluded. Frazier said that, hopefully, the infrastructure would be put in place up front, so the revenue generated each year from students taking the courses would be enough to pay the teacher’s salary. Kelly stated he hoped Frazier was right.

Following discussion of the grant funding, the resolution passed 17-0.

Frazier also mentioned there is a shift in Tennessee’s educational system to make technical courses more accessible to students county-wide. These career and technical education courses help students develop skills needed for students to become electricians, welders, farmers, agriculture-related jobs, and a broad spectrum of other industries.

Frazier stated, while it would be impossible to make all of these career and technical education classes available at each of the high schools, individual schools could offer a specialty and students from other schools interested in a particular job career path could be transported to the schools offering that class. For instance, students interested in a career in agriculture could be transported to Dresden High School, which has an operating farm that grows crops to feed the cattle and hogs they raise and sell. The profits go toward funding the school’s ag program.