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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A week after a state audit criticized JCPS for not spending enough of its $1 billion budget on students, there's news that the district will create dozens of new positions outside the classroom.
As the end of the school year approaches, students at Lincoln Performing Arts Elementary School present selections from "The Wizard of Oz." But Principal Susan French says sometimes, smiling and singing are the last things on her students' minds.
"Violence in the home, incarcerated single-parent families, tragedy in their lives, and when kids bring those issues to school, it actually becomes a barrier to their learning," French said.
That's why JCPS plans to add 15 mental health counselors and 39 other positions dealing with school discipline throughout the district for the next school year. It's part of a record $1.3 billion tentative budget passed by school leaders Tuesday night. The district will also add 21 college resource teachers to work with counselors and high school seniors and 26 expert positions to teach best practices to teachers.
Last week a state audit placed a microscope on JCPS spending, claiming bloated salaries meant less taxpayer money went toward students' education.
The new positions are not classroom assignments.
Superintendent Hargens says the audit was not even considered in the budget.
"I'm less concerned with where they count in our ratio and more concerned about the impact they'll have," said Hargens. "Ultimately what they do will benefit students and every budget item is budgeted toward what will benefit our students."
"It was already in process and heading within a two-week time for approval to a tentative budget, so there wasn't time to analyze the audit," she added.
The district's spending sparked a 2-hour debate among school board members Tuesday night.
JCPS board member Chris Brady voted against the new spending plan, not because he's against the new positions, but because he didn't have enough answers -- something the audit claims board members often lack.
"I would like to know where the vast majority the other 99-percent of our budget is going toward and I get an idea of where some of it is but I don't have a full picture of that," Brady said.
Necessary or not, French hopes some of these jobs come to her school for "a much bigger purpose."
"Helping these students become whole again," she said.
Leaders say this budget does not raise taxes, but a final approval won't come until the fall, after enrollment, grant funding, and property values come in.
Hargens says the audit will help shape future budgets, but it wasn't used this time because the district has to get a spending plan to the state by the end of the month.