Sunday, March 1, 2009

But “they’re not going to go out and change it just because DeKalb doesn’t like it.”

Interesting stuff. Does DCSS pay for a lobbyist? Does the BOE and Superintendent meet a few times a year with the DeKalb Delegation? But the bigger point is, the number of students in Dekalb is slightly decreasing, but Crawford Lewis, Marcus Turk and the BOE never, ever consider downsizing, especially when it comes to the incredibly bloated DCSS Central Office. Don't depend on the state for handouts. Downsize accordingly, eliminate redundancy, contract out services like custodial, grounds maintenance, HVAC, athletic field maintenance, etc., partner more with the county to share facilities and programs, partner with Emory, the CDC Georgia Perimeter, Georgia State (which has a solid School of Education), and follow Atlanta's lead and bring in foundation and grant money, like the millions Atlanta has gotten from Microsoft.
If this superintendent, who's been a DCSS insider for decades, can't do that stuff, find one who can, preferably from far away (no more insiders).

Eyebrows raised as Gwinnett gets big school grant
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Sunday, March 01, 2009

Poorer, mostly rural school systems across Georgia have long benefited from an “equalization” grant program that gives them extra money to help make up for a smaller tax base. But the system getting the biggest grant this year isn’t predominantly poor or rural: It’s suburban Atlanta’s Gwinnett County.

And that has a neighboring county crying foul.

DeKalb officials, who in June will lay off 127 employees, are concerned enough that they requested a review this year by lawmakers. They want the pool of eligible systems — which includes 135 of the state’s 180 school systems — to be expanded to include them.

“We’re putting money in and getting nothing back,” DeKalb school board member Jim Redovian said.
The grant program measures the ability of systems to raise local money, taking into consideration both the total value of a system’s taxable property and its enrollment.

The state uses that information in a formula that draws this line: Systems in the top 25 percent are considered to have the greatest “wealth per child” and get nothing; those below get varied sums depending on how they stack up. Gwinnett, the state’s largest school district with 157,000 students, will receive $31.7 million from the program this year — a nearly 400 percent increase over the $6.3 million it earned through the program last year. Gwinnett is the only major metro Atlanta school system that qualifies for grants in the state-funded program, although smaller systems such as Clayton, Paulding and Rockdale counties get money, too.

The idea behind the program is that the quality of a child’s education and the ability of local systems to pay for it should not be dependent on where the child happens to live, said Herb Garrett, executive director of the Georgia School Superintendents Association.

How did Gwinnett secure so many dollars? It educates nearly 10 percent of the state’s public school students. This year over last, it grew by 1,600 students.

At the same time, Garrett said, “over the last several years, the growth in Gwinnett County’s tax digest has slowed dramatically.” The system’s 19.25 property tax millage rate (excluding debt service) is also near enough to the state’s 20-mill tax rate limit to be an advantage, since the program is weighted to reward systems that first try to tax themselves.

Hence, a big payday.

“Even though we have a large digest, we have at least 50 percent more students that the digest has to fund,” said Rick Cost, the Gwinnett system’s chief financial officer. “Our wealth per student is much less than our metro counterparts [and] continues to decline in relationship to other systems because our student population continues to grow at a rate faster than our tax base.”

Still, neighboring Fulton County over the same time grew by 2,000 students to reach 88,299 — and qualifies for nothing based on the formula. Other core metro systems, such as Cobb County, DeKalb County and the city of Atlanta, saw slight decreases in enrollment but are also feeling the pinch of the recession. They don’t qualify for any money, either. DeKalb officials have asked their local lawmakers to get the ball rolling.

State Rep. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody), vice chairman of the House Education Committee, sounded cautious about the system’s chances, but he also said he expected to see some kind of bill proposed. “They earn monies and we don’t,” Millar said. But “they’re not going to go out and change it just because DeKalb doesn’t like it.”


Ella Smith said...

Great post! This is what has boiled my blood for some time. Gwinnett needs to go up closer to 20 mil if their is a need. I do not see Gwinnett getting this kind of money. I agree that Dekalb citizens give and give to the pot and get very little back. But when the Lit. Governor is from Gwinnett and attends to run for Governor I do not see this changing.

Again, great post.

Cerebration said...

I'm glad you shared this article, O&T. We have had many conversations here asking why DeKalb loses out on SO many grants, tax dollars and business support for our schools.

Another recent example comes to us from the Winter 2009 edition of EMORY magazine - highlighting a new program focusing on building healthy teen relationships developed at Emory out of concern over the abusive relationships teens are suffering these days. Sadly, the $1 million grant given to the Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health of Emory, housed at the Briarcliff Campus - will collaborate with Grady Hospital and ATLANTA PUBLIC SCHOOLS. (Even though they could actually walk over to Druid Hills HS in DeKalb County!)

Cerebration said...

Not to mention, as I posted a long time ago, CLAYTON county received a $1 million to develop and teach black history programs. Many of their teachers used some of the money to travel to and attend the Inauguration.

Cerebration said...

In case you're wondering - here are the basic millage rates for unincorporated DK for 2008 - they are higher for cities within the county

General Opns 7.99
Hospitals 0.84
County Bonds 0.51
Fire 2.54
Special Svcs 2.74
Unic Bonds 1.45
County Total 16.07
School Opns** 22.98
State 0.25
City Millage 0.00 Add here if you live in a city

TOTAL 39.30

Cerebration said...

And here's the basic rate for Gwinnett

Unincorporated Gwinnett

State 0.25
County 9.72
County Bond 0.22
Det Ctr Bond 0.24
School 19.25
School Bond 1.30
Recreation 0.79
City 0.00 - add here if you live in a city
CID 0.00 - add if you're in a CID

TOTAL 31.77

Anonymous said...

I also have wondered why DeKalb does not get the big grants from companies like Microsoft and GE. My guess is that the City of Atlanta is much more aggressive in pursuing these. Who should be doing this in DeKalb?

However, DCSS is trying to partner with GA Perimeter College and Ga State to develop qualified math teachers. If you never read the math program brochure posted on the DCSS website, you should. The HS section is sobering and I give them credit for being honest. DCSS does not now and in the near future does not have sufficient teachers for the new GPS courses. Read pages 56-59 where they propose a partnership with local colleges. Hope it works.

I presume DCSS was not even considered for the Jane Fonda grant because of its foray into abstinence only programs. DCSS dropped this but did not pick up the Planned Parenthood teen program. I'v heard that this is what the City of Atlanta uses and it is very progressive and very effective.

Ella Smith said...

So our School Opns** is 22.98 and Gwinnett's is School 19.25 and
School Bond 1.30 and they get a grant like this. Something is really wrong. Why is our tax money being spent on Gwinnett County students? That is what is actually happening. They take money away from up and give it to Gwinnett County Schools.

Cerebration said...

Just curious about this line, The system’s 19.25 property tax millage rate (excluding debt service) is also near enough to the state’s 20-mill tax rate limit to be an advantage...

With DeKalb's millage at 22.8, are we not over the state's rate limit? The only way to go beyond that is by Override by majority vote of electorate... did we choose to override the limit?

Does anyone know more about this?

pscexb said...

O&T, DCSS no longer pays for lobbyists. Funding for them were removed due to the budget crunch.

DCSS formerly had Dr. Jim Mullin advocating on behalf of the district. Regardless of what one might think of him, he knew how to navigate around the legislature. Dr. Mullin retired not long ago and his replacement is not as astute as he was. That is not meant as a knock against his replacement just merely a fact of replacing a 'long timer'.

Rep. Miller is probably a good person to check with on this. They are also blogging about this on the AJC today. As one person pointed out, what would be the motivation for the 135 districts to receive these monies to 'change the rules' on behalf of the 35 districts to send most of the monies?

Ella Smith said...

The school systems that are hurt in the formula are the metro counties. There is no way the other counties involved would agree to change this. Our Secretary of Education is also not from the metro area.

Rep. Miller is a great guy and does fight for us.