Friday, February 27, 2009

“Who’s going to pay for all of this?”

Since being elected Governor, Sonny Perdue has cut more than $1.3 billion dollars from the state funding for Georgia’s public schools through “austerity cuts”. His announced austerity cuts for the next school year exceed $100 million. But the economic recession, declining tax revenue and increased state operating costs are driving that number higher. Economists forecast that Perdue’s next cut to school funding will surpass $375 million. And there’s no end in sight.

The Georgia PTA convened its annual PTA Day at the Capitol on February 24, 2009. It’s an informative program for citizens interested in our public schools and our state government. And, consistent with previous editions, this year’s event was outstanding.

Governor Perdue’s relentless cutting of public school funding was the common thread in every issue discussed. Increases in class size, reductions in programs, eliminations of positions, delays in improvements; the list of insults to our public schools as a result of Perdue’s cuts knows no limits. Their number is exceeded, it seems, only by the profound injuries they inflict.

At the Capitol, PTA representatives met with members of the General Assembly. The consensus was clear: our public schools are in jeopardy and the situation is very likely to get worse. “We can’t afford to pay for it” is the unanimous refrain.

No enterprise could possibly survive the loss of revenue experienced by Georgia’s public schools since Sonny Perdue took office. Yet in spite of this fact the cuts to state funding for public schools are expected to continue unabated.

As a citizen, the current condition of Georgia’s public schools is unacceptable. The Governor’s cutting of education funding is outrageous. And the current state of affairs reminds me of a story I heard long ago.

In 1968, U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy brought his presidential campaign to the deep south. He chose Birmingham, Alabama as the location to deliver a speech about his positions on public education issues. And an unruly crowd turned out to greet him.

As Senator Kennedy spoke about the fundamental importance of public schools and their necessity to a democracy, individuals in the crowd began to heckle him. Ignoring them, Robert Kennedy continued his call to create the best possible schools open to every child in the community.

“Who’s going to pay for all of this?” Someone in the mob shouted.

There was a pause.

“Who’s going to pay for all of this?” The heckler yelled again.

Departing from his prepared address, Senator Kennedy turned to the individuals in his audience who’d been shouting at him.

“Some have asked, ‘Who’s going to pay for all of this?’ That is a fair question. And I shall answer it.”

“Who’s going to pay for all of this?”

“We will. We all will pay for it.”

“The alternative would be to pay for not doing it. And none of us can afford that.”

38 comments:

Ella Smith said...

I am becoming extremely concerned regarding the cuts that Governor Purdue is making to our public schools. I suspect he might be opening up the door for a Democratic Governor and also Secretary of Education. I do believe that as citizens of this great state expect to have good public schools and good public schools cost money. Enough cuts are enough and now he is considering if he will take all the money from the federal government's stimulus package. I am sure if we choice not to use it some other state will be glad to take our share.

Cerebration said...

Education is such a large part of the State budget, it only seems logical that there would be major cuts there. I'm afraid we made have hit that tipping point that the State government has grown beyond the people's willingness to fund it. Perhaps Ella and Kim should dig into the State salaries to find the bloat! Or perhaps the people of this state have to realize that you pretty much get what you pay for.

For a good report, check out MSNBC

House Appropriations panel OKs $18.9B Ga. budget

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29390401/

Anonymous said...

If Alabama can get federal grant money...

http://www.baldwincountynow.com/articles/2009/02/14/local_news/doc4995e1db1cdc6527162070.txt

The program is 100 percent federally funded, according to ALDOT.

“Walking to school promotes safety, health, concern for the environment, a sense of community and physical activity among children,” according to a news release of the Alabama Department Transportation issued last September.

ALDOT administers the state’s federally funded Safe Routes to School program, which encourages and enables children in grades K-8, including those with disabilities, to walk and bicycle to school, according to an ALDOT report about the program.

“(The program) makes walking and bicycling to school safe and more appealing and facilitates the planning, development and implementation of projects that will improve safety and reduce traffic, fuel consumption and air pollution in the vicinity of schools,” the ALDOT report states. “The program funds infrastructure project improvements within a two-mile radius of K-8 school. Encouragement, promotional, training and enforcement are other eligible activities offered through (the program).”

Anonymous said...

Marshall Orson was a big part of AppleCorp, which helped bring in big foundation money and grants for the Atlanta School System. Yes, Marshall was third behind Ella and McChesney, but the dude is a county resident with expertise.

With money from the state shrinking, might as well try to learn how the ATL school system brought in millions, including big money from Microsoft.

Ella Smith said...

I am sure that Marshall will be very involved in the new foundation that is being started.

If, elected I assured Marshall I would make sure he stayed involved as much as possible. Of course I was not elected but I am hopeful that Don will reach out and include him in community committes and things like this if he gets the chance. I was extremely shocked that Marshall was not in the run-off. In my opinion he was not in the run-off because of the support that Don had to get the Lakeside High School district lines moved. A campaign was started at the end of the campaign to hurt Marshall chances by letting the members of the Leafmore/Sagamore area know he was not in favor of this change in the district lines. In my opinion I lost the election because of the lack of voters who voted the first time for me that did not come back out to vote and because all this group from Leafmore and Sagamore did come back out and vote.

Soccer Mom said...

Call me cynical, but everything I read and hear today is about Government bailing out corporations.

I've never -- NEVER -- seen an instance of a corporation or charity bailing out a Government.

Anonymous said...

Here's a great explanation of austerity cuts to school funding and the effect they have had:

www.georgiapta.org/documents/Effects_of_Austerity_Cuts_throughout_Georgia.ppt -

themommy said...

In GA, PTAs are only common in urban/metro/suburban areas. Leave Metro Atlanta and you find PTOs who specifically don't lobby. So at PTA day at the capital, there were plenty of legislators not approached by their own constituents. These are often the legislators who support every initiative of the Governor.

We need a true statewide parents group that speaks in unison about the value of public education and about expectations.

Those of us represented by Republicans at the state level need to be especially vocal, as right now in GA, we are essentially a one party state. The legislators with a chance of making a difference are mostly Republican.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, themommy. You are right!

Questions Questions said...

Does not the Georgia State Constitution REQUIRE the state government to fund public schools?

How does Governor Purdue get away with this?

Soccer Dad said...

@themommy - Bulls eye!!!

@George - another BRILLIANT post, thank you!

Concerned Mom said...

Questions Questions brings up a good point. I'm also interested in this question of the state constitution requiring the state to fund public education. Does anyone on this blog know the answer to this?

Anonymous said...

I do believe it is time for our children to start writing letters to our beloved Mr. Purdue. . . What might they say. Anyone interested in getting something started?

themommy said...

There is a group of school systems suing the state over the issue that Question Question poses? The constitution's language requires an adequate education. Vague, right?

http://www.casfg.org/

Anonymous said...

Consortium for Adequate School Funding in Georgia

“The State has been doing everything it can to avoid a careful examination of whether the State has met its obligation under the Georgia Constitution to the students of Georgia,” said Joseph G. Martin, Jr., Executive Director of the Consortium. “The State has used technicalities and legal maneuvers at every turn to prevent this question from being answered in a court of law, which is the appropriate means of resolving such issues under our form of government.”

Mr. Martin continued, “This particular opinion is strained to say the least. How does our group differ from all of the other associations that are supported by local boards of education for the purpose of improving education in Georgia? And if individual school systems can sue the State over a constitutional issue, as they clearly can, there is no reason why they can’t form an organization for this purpose instead of having every system sue individually. The right of an association to act on behalf of its members has existed under Georgia law for many years.”

Dr. Jeffery C. Welch, President of the Consortium, stressed the importance of this issue. He said, “This lawsuit is intended to ensure that the students of Georgia obtain the opportunities they have been promised by our constitution. Why have the leaders of our state been so reluctant to let this issue be addressed? Our state cannot prosper if we continue to deprive our schools of the resources they must have to prepare all of our children for the modern world.”

Mr. Martin added, “If the nature of the Consortium was ever a problem, one has to wonder why this issue was never raised during more than four years of litigation so that it could be decided by an independent judge. There is also a clear question as to whether the Attorney General can issue an opinion that affects a case in which the State is a defendant.”

Along with students, parents, and individual systems, the Consortium filed a lawsuit in September, 2004, but the judge in this case was murdered in March of 2005. After a new judge was appointed, the State filed a motion to dismiss and later a motion for summary judgment, but both of these motions were denied after extensive written and oral arguments. The trial was scheduled to begin on October 21, 2008, but the second judge in this case was removed just before the start of the trial because of State cuts in funding for senior judges. After the case was transferred to a third judge whose views are well-known, the plaintiffs chose to withdraw their initial lawsuit without prejudice with the intent of filing a new complaint later.

The Consortium has completed the preparation of a new complaint, which is nearly 100 pages long according to Mr. Martin. The new complaint focuses on the State’s abdication of its responsibility to all of our students. The various problems affecting all of the schools in Georgia are described in detail. The requested remedy is to require the State to determine the cost of an adequate education in an objective way and then fulfill its duty. Most of the research has been completed, as evidenced by nearly 50 depositions and over 500,000 pages of documents.

According to Mr. Martin, the State apparently realizes that its best strategy is to dissuade local school systems from supporting the Consortium. “This appears to be the reason why the Governor requested an opinion from the Attorney General on this matter,” he said. “Even though we don’t agree with this opinion, there are still a number of alternatives we can pursue in continuing this cause on behalf of Georgia’s children.”

Despite the current recession, the goal of this lawsuit, according to Dr. Welch, is to ensure the support our schools must have over time. Unless the current course of events is altered, Georgia’s schools will remain in jeopardy even when the economy improves.

The Consortium is a coalition of 50 local school systems, which was formed in 2001 in response to the financial crisis facing Georgia’s schools. The Consortium is strictly non-partisan and is working for the benefit of every student in Georgia. The lawsuit is based on the State’s obligation under the Georgia Constitution (Article VIII, Section 1) to provide an adequate education for all of its children.

For further information regarding the Consortium or the lawsuit, contact Joe Martin at 404-872-9651 or visit the Consortium's website at www.casfg.org.

Ella Smith said...

I see these group slightly differently. I see them as trying to get additional money for smaller school districts and counties that do not want to raise their property tax base for their children but instead want the state to take money away from higher tax bases like Dekalb and Fulton and give it to these smaller counties. Why do you think we know give $30 million dollars away each year of our tax base for our schools and Gwinnett gets $20 million dollars funds each year extra? I took the following from the group to Governor Perdue and you can see from point 1 and 4. They feel it is unfair for county like Dekalb to have a higher tax base than these counties have. These counties do not want to raise taxes for their children but instead fought ot have money taken from counties like Dekalb and Fulton and given to them. I pay property taxes and a great deal of property taxes in Dekalb county as I own rental property and I do not expect money to be taken away from our children in Dekalb and given to other children in other counties. Dekalb children have suffered since the state legislature did give in and try to even up the money by taking money away from us. It does look like on the surfact that this group is doing a good thing but in the long run it will hurt the children of Dekalb County. Below is an insert from the group to Governor Perdue which shows what I am taling about:

"As explained in the proposal we gave to your attorneys on September 1, a copy of which is enclosed for reference, we have advocated the following four principles:

1. Full funding by the State of a foundation program for every child in Georgia, regardless of the local circumstances. In some cases, local taxes might decrease.
2. Meaningful interventions to close the achievement gap among various groups and to enable many more of our students to graduate from high school.
3. Accountability for educational results coupled with local discretion.
4. Appropriate adjustments to address the wide differences in local resources."

Again, please look deeper at the group and see if they win if this will hurt our children in Dekalb County.

Anonymous said...

Ella makes an interesting point. Perhaps it's time DCSS got a group going like this?

Cerebration said...

So basically our choice is - go with the Democrats and redistribute our tax dollars to fund schools in poor, rural areas, or go with the Republicans, seize a voucher and be on our way.

What has happened to us?

Bob Moseley said...

Please help "pay for all of this":

Thursday, March 5th is a very important date for DCSS Schools as this is the day when the state's Department of Education conducts the second Full Time Equivalent (FTE) count of all students enrolled and present in class.

DCSS is requesting that you make all possible efforts to send your child to school on March 5th as the number of students in class will determine the funding for the 2009-2010 school year.

DCSS is requesting your support
through your child being at school on March 5th so we can maximize the per pupil funds allocated for
DCSS schools. This will provide us the funds to continue with all the wonderful academics and
enrichment programs as they are this year and fund our improvement plans too.

Thank you,

Bob Moseley

Anonymous said...

Classic.

DCSS makes the children do the heavy lifting make certain the system has enough money for the fat administrative salaries, primo benefits, free cars, blackberries, p cards, expense accounts, travel reimbursement, etc., etc., etc.

And when the system doesn't have enough money, DCSS makes the children bear the burden by jamming them in over crowded trailers, not paying their teachers, cutting services, eliminating programs and not repairing their schools.

Great school system you got, DeKalb. Real nice.

Cerebration said...

Thank you Bob Moseley for the heads up --

Everyone - make sure your children go to school on March 5th -- also - share this with your principals - they should be really pushing this at school and in the announcements. It's much more effective to communicate this directly to the students. It's hard to get the word out to ALL parents in the system.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Don't most schools have email bulletins? This should information should be sent out immediately.

Gotta play the system Anonymous. If this is the game the state is playing, we have to play it - don't blame DCSS.

No Nuthin from DCSS on this said...

I've got children at three diffrent DCSS schools. None of them have sent word about this March 5th. If not on this blog I'd never know about it.

Kim Gokce said...

"For want of a nail ..."

This is one of those tiny things that can make a huge difference! I have posted about March 5 and DCSS funding at:

Make Sure Your Kid is School on March 5!

Go over and vote for it to get it to the top of the syndication network! More than 6 votes ensures it will display on many neighborhood and civic web sites around DeKalb.

Kim Gokce said...

@Cere: "What has happened to us?"

It is called violation of the public trust - once it is broken, it is very, very difficult to restore. That is why we should watch public officials like hawks! Vigilance is the price of liberty and a good public educational system ... unfortunately, Georgia in general and DeKalb in particular does not have the full trust of the public.

Cerebration said...

DeKalb schools biggest issue in my opinion, is their very poor communication. From the Board, (no meeting minutes to read, ever) to the Administration (Pat Pope does the best job of letting us know what she's doing, but I have no clue about much of the administration - for example - curriculum!) to the schools themselves. Principals need to take on the task of communicating more - they are leaving FAR too much of the task to the PTA's.

Plus - The website could be a much more powerful tool - not to mention better looking (I cringe at that 80's looking logo.) Even Clayton's website blows DCSS's away.

They should have an area for daily Q&A - a blog of sorts - posting the latest and greatest info and addressing 'stakeholders' (which means just about everyone's) concerns.

Hey - DCSS - if you can't beat us - why not join us? Make a blog of your own! Call it DeKalbDoesntMindBeingWatched.blog

Putting truthful, factual information out front (other than Press Releases to the AJC) would go a looooong way toward building public trust. And you may be surprised - a lot of us are here to actually help!

No Nuthin from DCSS said...

All three kids home now. No announcements. No flyers. No emails. No communication of any kind from any of the schools.

Who's in charge of this mess?

Open+Transparent said...

"All three kids home now. No announcements. No flyers. No emails. No communication of any kind from any of the schools."

The head of communications and some of the staff make over $100,000 per year, but don't know how to get the word out to parents. With e-mail, listserves, blogs, websites, pdf's, podcasts, etc., it costs less than ever before to keep the public informed. But the staff at DCSS does not keep the public informed (unbless there is a SPLOST), yet they still all make huge salaries with phat benefits and pensions.

Anonymous said...

We got a note home and an email blast. Our principal started notifying us of these days (there is one in October and one in March) two years ago and does a great job of making everyone aware of this - but then again we have a great principal!

Anonymous said...

Big thumbs up to Mr. Moseley for posting his request on this blog. We need to encourage more communication of this nature and be welcoming of those in the DCSS who are willing to join us here.

Kim Gokce said...

You know I can't let the mention of communication and DCSS go by without my patented comment about the "latent constituency" ... I realize that the primary audience of DCSS communications has to be to the parents, teachers, and students in the system but ... I forever will remind DCSS leaders and this blog's readers that "the rest" of us in DeKalb want to know what is going on also.

Whether we have pre-school aged kids, are empty nesters, or simply never had families of our own, we pay taxes and expect those taxes to be accounted for by DCSS. Tell us where it all goes and about all the great things we are investing in over time. You might find your image improves even faster among this "latent" constituency than the current parent population.

Let us know how to help you. Let us know what the strategic challenges are and what you are doing to meet them. Help us help you ...

I've been repeating this message for nearly 3 years so far ... a current parents' email list is not good enough!

Anonymous said...

My God! Cerebration where did you find these two idealistic dreamers (Kim G and George B)? Reading them, you'd think there were 'solutions' to our 'problems' and that by 'working together' we could make 'progress' towards common goals!

These two dreamers don't have a clue what they're up against in DCSS. And they're obviously not from around here.

Let's work together? Yeah, right.

Kim Gokce said...

@Anonymous

You're humor and cynicism are well taken. But as a matter of record my commitment to change in DCSS not so much bred from naivete or optimism but rather stubbornness.

I see much to be disappointed in the realities of DCSS-land and even angered by (just look at a map of Cross Keys feeders and ask yourself how it could be so). I am convinced, though, that the prospects for improvements exists and to not pursue them is unethical.

You'll know I've accepted defeat when the "For Sale" sign goes up in the front yard. In the meantime, invictus maneo is my motto in all things DCSS.

"Work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed." -Vaclav Havel

Cerebration said...

I gotta say. At the ELPC/League of Women Voters meeting there were three school board reps. Jay Cunningham, Paul Womack and Don McChesney. They put themselves on the spot and fielded questions from the group (it was a fairly small group for ELPC) and they took a lot of heat from some in the community as well. The frustration of the Lakeside parents was evident regarding transfers, over crowding, lack of funding, decrepit buildings, a seeming lack of concern, poor morale, etc...

Jay Cunningham especially seems to really get it though. He said that he personally toured Lakeside, Cross Keys and Chamblee and saw the conditions first hand. (He represents District 5 - Lithonia, MLK, Miller Grove, SW DeKalb and the new Arabia HS) He also evaluated his district and found that the addition to Lithonia is not necessary and that the money earmarked for that addition can be better spent in an area with higher needs. He is taking a countywide view. He promised that the entire Board was going to take that view also. Womack and McChesney echoed his comments and seemed sincere. Womack also promised that they were not going to make Lakeside a receiving school for transfers next year and that all of the other transfers would be looked into.

They surprisingly admitted that for the first time ever - the School Board is collaborating with the Board of Commissioners - due to CEO Ellis' new era of collaboration. They had a retreat together and have at least made the effort to get to know each other's business. In fact, several school board members are now going to sit in on a variety of commission committees (budget, zoning, etc.)

The State Reps were also extraordinarily candid and concerned about school issues. In fact, when asked about the GA QBE funding distribution, it was Pam Stephenson who answered. She, Steve Henson and all of the others are sincerely irritated that DeKalb pays in so much only to see Gwinnett reap the benefits (to the tune of $30 million this year.) Not to mention how much we pay for Grady, Marta, etc...

I pray I wasn't dreaming this. I know their job is a tough one - but darn it, they asked for it. I think they handled themselves very well in the face of some intense questioning. If they are willing to remain in the hot, hot kitchen and stay as calm as possible - while continuing to share openly - and dig deeply into the muck, they may be able to effect change. They also must trust that there are many of us out there who - while frustrated beyond belief, are still willing to put in our all to make a difference. I hope they will ask for our help.

Hopefully, Zepora, Sarah, Gene, Pam, Tom and Jim will be part of this new day in DeKalb where we really do come together and spend our limited resources wisely and in order of importance and need. Our county as a whole is only as good as our weakest members.

Open+Transparent said...

"will be part of this new day in DeKalb where we really do come together and spend our limited resources wisely and in order of importance and need"

Great post Cere.

I sincerely believe that if this new found spirit of cooperation is actually on the table, it's because of a few differnet factors, but the county blogs like DCSW are a big one.

Yes, Burrell Ellis was going to be more collaborative from day one than egomaniac Vernon Jones ever was.

But it's the blogs and websites that have been driving much change in the DK.

DCSW, GoDeKalb.com, DeKalb Officer Speak, InDecatur, Heneghan's Blog, DoraBlog (for Doraville folk), Decatur-DeKalb, etc., have brought a ton of attention to important issues that the AJC just doesn't cover.

With this new found online advocacy, the local small papers, the DeKalb Neighbor, The Champion, www.crossroadsnews.com and The Crier have all stepped up their games, especially the DeKalb Neighbor and CrossRoads News.

DeKalb Officers helped get Bolton dservedly fired. Heneghan's blog was a big part of Dunwoody cityhood. And this blog has already made the BOE and DCSS Central Office stand to attention.

Taxpayers are freaking sick and tired of paying a billion dollars a year for DCSS between the operating budget and SPLOST. Parents are sick and tired of a bloated, out of touch bureuacracy that can't even fix roof leaks or mold in HVAC. They are also sick and tired that some facilities are best in class (Arabia Mt.), while others should have been torn down and re-built years ago (Cross Keys, Sequoyah, Lakeside).

We haven't even really touched the most important stuff: academics and curriculum. It's easy to talk about facilities and Central office bloat. But we all need to look more closely at academics. Gloria Talley and her staff need to be much more open with the public. Principals and asst. principals need to audit one class per day, which is the only way to insure that teachers are at the top of their game. Asst. principals and wannabe administrators need to get their secondary degrees from real colleges and universities, like the GA State School of Ed., not the Univ. of Phoenix. Teachers need secondary degrees in their subject area, not education management. Parents have to get involved in schools, communicate with teachers, help kids with their homework, etc.

People, how mind blowing is it that Asst. Sup. Bob Moseley actually put up a post here, let alone even acknowledging that DCSW exists??!! This would have been impossible just a year ago. The DCSS power players are reading this blog, and they have to sense, as Sam Cooke sang, "A Change Is Gonna Come".

If BOE members are finally open to collaboration with the county, looking at how SLPOST money is spent and distributed, looking at the Central office bloat, contracting out services, trying to be more open with the public, and endly the ridiculous North DeKalb vs. South DeKalb battle (Zepora, Copelin Wood), it's because of DeKalb County School Watch and its peer blogs.


P.S. And if we ever get the Larry Johnson dominated Board of Commissions to wake up, they'll kick off double-dipper Gene Walker off the DeKalb Development Authority.

Anonymous said...

O&T,

Don't forget that the newest county commissioner was (is?) a DCSS employee. If she still is, it takes collaboration to a new level.

Soccer Dad said...

"Parents are sick and tired of a bloated, out of touch bureuacracy that can't even fix roof leaks or mold in HVAC."

FANTASTIC POST O&T !!!!

I can only hope and pray you are right. And, trust me, it is my hope and prayer that you are.

There has been way too much waste, mismanagement and abuse for way too long in DCSS.

ENOUGH!!!

Anonymous said...

Someone said the message from Mosely was typical of making the kids do the heavy lifting.
The more interesting point was that the message indicates where DCSS emphasis lies.
The only thing Mosely left out was--"August 15 is registration day--please make sure you invite as many Title 1 students you can from Clayton and Gwinnett to take seats in DeKalb--Millions in Title 1 funds are at stake."