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
By KRISTINA TORRES
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.”