Tuesday, August 18, 2009
SPLOST Spending for High Schools is Racially Imbalanced
I don’t know if people in south DeKalb know or realize this, but schools in north DeKalb are totally integrated and highly diverse. Conversely, schools in south DeKalb are almost completely homogenous as they are nearly 100% African-American. Ironically, north-end schools that are integrated have been ignored as far as repairs, additions and remodeling with SPLOST dollars, except Druid Hills - which has received some remodeling to their nearly 100 year old facility - and Tucker High School, which is being torn down and completely rebuilt - but then again, Tucker is 72% African-American. That is the only school in the north end of the county to be given attention beyond the standard auditorium/career tech packages promised–some even drawn–but none yet built. Chamblee, Lakeside, Cross Keys and Dunwoody still wait for their share of SPLOST construction. Lakeside at least has architectural drawings, but those have taken years to develop. Dunwoody and Chamblee have heard rumblings, Dunwoody even has some drawings, but neither has seen construction action whatsoever. Cross Keys, built in 1958, is a disaster of a building and was apparently given all of the equipment and students from sold and closed HS of Technology North - but no guidance or program director. Ironically, when we voted for SPLOST 3, Cross Keys was #2 on the list of priorities - just after SPLOST 2 carry over - and well before Tucker HS.
Don't believe me that spending correlates to race? Check out the data, in case you can't visit these schools --
DeKalb School of Arts – 284 students - 184 (64.8%) black, 74 (26.1%) white, 7 (2.5%) Hispanic, 9 (3.2%) Asian, 10 (3.5%) other; $10,000,000 has been allocated to move this school to Avondale HS. (This equates to spending $35,211.00 per student.) DHS will operate as a separate school within a school – 2 principals, 2 sets of teachers, counselors, etc..
Clarkston HS – 934 students - 742 (79.4%) black, 29 (3.1%) white, 36 (3.9%) Hispanic, 103 (11.0%) Asian, 24 (2.6%) other. With a design capacity of 1260, Clarkston offers 320 available seats. With $11,694,682 scheduled for an Auditorium/Career Tech Center - Plus an additional $4 million for other improvements – Clarkston should soon be a sought after, very roomy, newly remodeled high school.
Columbia HS – 1,322 students - 1,303 (98.6%) black; Total renovation of the building, including the pool. Also recently completed the auditorium/fine arts/career tech addition. The original design capacity of this building was 1,474 giving Columbia currently at least 152 available seats.
Martin Luther King Jr. HS – 2,044 students - 2,005 (98.1%) black; “MLK opened in August, 2001. Scheduled to receive a $9.8 million multi-classroom addition with SPLOST 3. Plus a new project surfaced for this school - MLK HS - 9th Grade Academy at a cost of $6,858,842 is listed on the June 09 CIP. With a current capacity of 1,407, MLK is over-capacity by 637, however, relief was promised by the brand new Arabia HS in August, 2009. Arabia could have easily relieved over-crowding in South DeKalb, however, the superintendent instead decided to make Arabia a magnet/choice/theme school requiring an application/lottery process.
Lithonia HS – 1,683 students - 1,606 (95.4%) black; “totally wireless facility built October, 2002. The school has 188,000 square feet of space and is one of the largest schools in DeKalb County. Lithonia has a state-of-the-art media center, a music, art, and NJROTC wings, a cyber cafe for parents to communicate online with teachers, and a 500-seat auditorium.” Lithonia's multi-million addition has been postponed, due to very low enrollment.
McNair HS – 1,124* students - 1,107 (98.5%) black; COMPLETELY RENOVATED 2006 – including a new auditorium. With a budget of over $21 million, they even went so far as to spend $25,000 on the Mustang Statues on the pillars at the entry.
Miller Grove HS – 1,751 students - 1,697 (96.9%) black; All instructional spaces receive natural daylight through walls of windows. The media center and cafeteria are state of the art, and the gymnasium comfortably seats over 2,000 people. MGHS boasts a 2,345 square foot Health Occupations Center. As their website states, “Miller Grove High School is truly a state of the art 21st century school facility.” Located less than a mile and a half from Lithonia HS, Miller Grove is scheduled to receive an addition with SPLOST 3. (However, the school is currently under-enrolled by about 300.)
Open Campus HS – 777 students - 640 (82.4%) black, 24 (3.1%) white, 80 (10.3%) Hispanic, 18 (2.3%) Asian, 15 (1.9%) other; $10 million has been allocated to “move” Open Campus to a new location at the Stone Mountain facility.
Southwest DeKalb HS – 1,862 students - 1,803 (96.8%) black; SW enjoyed a total renovation and addition using over $21 million in SPLOST 2 funding. Additional funding (approx $2 million) beyond the original scope was also built. With a design capacity of 1365, SWDK is 500 students over capacity – requiring 30 trailers on site. This is a magnet school, and some would say enrollment should be limited to the number of available seats. It is also very close to Arabia, so one could also assume that many of the students could transfer. (Take note that there are now two high-achiever magnet schools within 5 miles of each other in South DeKalb – one brand new, one with millions in construction spending and plans for a performing arts center, however Chamblee, the magnet school in the north has seen zero dollars spent and has no auditorium nor plans drawn.)
Stephenson HS – 1,893 students - 1,825 (96.4%) black; Stephenson HS - A separate 9th Grade Academy building - with it's own science labs and cafeteria was built using millions from the SPLOST 2 funds. The capacity is 2098 for this school, leaving over 200 seats available.
Towers HS – 1,044 students - 990 (94.8%) black; Received a total renovation using over $20 million in SPLOST 2 including new bleachers as an extra budget item. Although under-enrolled by over 350 we went on to spend $1,500,000.00 SPLOST 3 funding for an 8 Classroom, 12,000 SF addition, PLUS $350,000 for an addition of an art studio. Moreover, they have received a beautiful auditorium/tech addition.
Tucker HS – 1,493 students - 1,075 (72.0%) black, 226 (15.1%) white, 81 (5.4%) Hispanic, 58 (3.9%) Asian, 53 (3.5%) other; TORN DOWN, currently in the process of being completely rebuilt at a cost of over $50 million, it was in bad shape, but not as bad as Cross Keys.
Arabia Mountain High School is a brand new, $50+ million, 240,000 square feet building with a capacity of 1600-2100 students built with SPLOST 2 funding. The school includes an environmental sciences lab, three business labs, a 600-seat auditorium, three music rooms, an indoor running track, practice athletic fields, tennis courts, an outdoor classroom/amphitheater and walking trail.
The campus is located in the southern corner of DeKalb, about 2 miles from the Rockdale and Henry county lines and sits near trails leading to the federally recognized Arabia Mountain national heritage area, which comprises thousands of acres of protected green space. The school was built to relieve severe crowding at nearby high schools, as press releases at the time show. (This plan has been changed and Arabia will function as a magnet/choice program, providing only 600 spaces to relieve local over-crowding.)
In evaluating the facts, SPLOST spending appears racially motivated. If you look over the list of schools who have been promised projects, but nothing delivered to date, other than maybe approvals to request proposals or architectural drawings, the losers are the schools with less than 50% African-American. The biggest loser is Cross Keys, a school with a majority Hispanic population. In fact, Lewis & the BOE have gone further down the design stage for the dream of a High School of the Arts than they have for Chamblee, Dunwoody & Cross Keys - they have sketches and have asked for proposals and bids for a Performing Arts School!
Here's the irony -- Lakeside, Dunwoody and Cross Keys are the ONLY schools left that are not over 50% black. The ONLY ones. (Lakeside - only 35% black, Dunwoody - only 36% black, Cross Keys - only 3% black.) Druid Hills at 52% black is finally getting a long overdue renovation. Tucker - at 72% black is seeing a teardown and completely NEW rebuild. Chamblee just crossed the majority black threshold - at 54% black. Just imagine for a moment, if those numbers were reversed. We'd have another Federal Case.
And renovation spending doesn't correlate to capacity either. True, Cross Keys only has around 900 students. However, incredible construction is going on now at Clarkston HS - with only 934 students. McNair - at 1124 students has enjoyed a complete reno - same with Columbia - a school that is UNDER enrolled by 132. Towers HS has only 1044 students - with a full renovation/auditorium/tech/classroom addition - and new tennis courts. (Lakeside’s tennis courts host 22 trailers, forcing their champion tennis team to hold practice off campus.)
In addition, regarding race, DeKalb is not providing acceptable educational facilities for Hispanics – and this effects a lot of kids. At a total of 9,422 they are currently 9.4% of the total student population. For comparison, there are 10,465 whites (10.5%). The Hispanics are concentrated mainly in the schools in the north end of the county and therefore, IMO, tend to get overlooked by our zealous board members who hyper-focus on the needs of South DeKalb. Hispanics are the new largest minority in DeKalb schools and deserve the focus and attention to equity that black students enjoy. Otherwise - I smell another lawsuit.
Further, Lakeside has over 1600 students - hundreds over capacity in an old crumbling building (and has been seriously over capacity since at least the year 2000). Dunwoody also has 1600 and is predicted to be 750 over capacity by the year 2016. Most school systems base spending decisions on the theory that the money should be used to benefit the most students at one time - but we have done exactly the opposite. Our system has FAVORED the schools with fewer students for renovations and additions, at least the ones with a majority black population, leaving diverse schools in the north over-crowded, with no auditoriums or career tech facilities and in dire need of major renovations.
Equitable? Heck no - not at all. Not with our current leadership in DeKalb.