Bredesen Pushes School Funding Reform in East Tennessee

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Knoxville (WVLT) - Ever since the basic education program, commonly called BEP, was introduced in 1992, Knox County leaders have felt like they weren't getting their fair share of funding.

Governor Phil Bredesen was in Knoxville Thursday touting the new and improved BEP.

The governor said BEP 2.0 as he calls it will send more dollars to Knox County.

The Governor says it's going to pass. The question is how to fund the almost $500 million BEP 2.0. A forty-cent cigarette tax would take care of more than half the cost.

"I don't need the whole forty-cents this year because we have some other money, and it's probably better for the schools to phase it in a little bit so they have a chance to plan for how they're going to use the money and so on,” Governor Bredesen says.

While the schools are on the receiving side, smokers are on the paying side.

Mary Childress is a smoker. "They need to lower 'em. They're too high,” she says. “We're paying too much anyway.

"If it's for the school like I think it is, I think that's good. I really think they should do it,” says Eileen York, another smoker.

The governor agrees that Knox County was not getting its fair share of B-E-P dollars with the old formula.

"From our standpoint, of course, it looked like Knox County received quite a bit of incoming funding that we think is well overdue from the state and make it a little more equitable. I believe,” says South Doyle Principal Rick Walker.

"We're very optimistic that the new BEP plan is going to be good for Knox County children. Right now, we're under funded dramatically compared to the other children across Tennessee,” says Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale.

Governor Bredesen calls the cigarette tax two-fold in that the tax will support education as higher prices discourage youngsters from picking up the habit.

"Too many kids, you'd be surprised, the number of kids you think that are smoking at an early age. It's really shocking to me in that,” says Walker.

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