Although there are many people who feel strongly that magnet, choice, theme and other programs are using more dollars per student than "regular" schools, we don't have all of the data on the subject yet. We also doubt that the board has all of the data either. But logic tells us that there are areas here that have some wiggle room for budget cuts - another day - when we have a board and administration who we can trust will make fair decisions using solid data.
HOWEVER - most of us agree that the task before us must not BEGIN with the classroom - any classroom. No one (and I think I can safely say no one) currently trusts that the board is dealing with true, fair data. The first task - and the task that will serve as an olive branch extending trust - is to make the heaviest - hardest cuts to the administration and central office. And by that I mean anyone who does not directly have an effect on learning in the classroom.
We have gathered so much evidence and published it here showing that there is no excuse for our board to avoid the task of cutting admin staff first - and deepest. When push comes to shove, honestly, our students and teachers can get through the day without many of these people. But taking away teachers, crowding classrooms and shuttering programs haphazardly will not fly. Check out the link to the right (under Pages) titled, "Facts & Sources" for a compilation of verified information we have acquired.
Roll up those sleeves board. Dig for some good, reliable data. We'd like to see researched, quantifiable reasons for the decisions being made.
To quote one of our astute bloggers:
There is enough money in the budget to provide education to students. There is not enough money in the budget to employ THOUSANDS of individuals who have jobs that other counties do without. THOUSANDS. This is the ONLY thing you should be focused on.
#1 - What is the job of a school system?
To educate kids. Nothing more, nothing less.
#2 - What jobs do we eliminate?
See question #1 to determine if a job is truly needed.
DCSS spends $19,000,000 in salary and benefits for their technology group (MIS) for 99,000 students. Gwinnett Schools spends $22,500,000 in salary and benefits for their technology group for 150,000 students. So DCSS has 30% less students and infinitely less equipment to maintain, but only spends 15% less than Gwinnett, and doesn’t provide anywhere the service of Gwinnett’s technology group.
Even a great sounding idea like security personnel has morphed into DeKalb spending $12,500,000 a year for 217 personnel – a figure so out of line it’s laughable – Gwinnett which has 150,000 students compared to DCSS 100,0000 students spends $2,500,000 on security. No other county even comes close to DCSS’s expenditure on Security.
Then there are ineffective scripted learning programs like America’s Choice ($8,000,000) and Springboard ($1,400,000) which the teachers dislike intensely and don’t support. And the 80+ Instructional Coaches ($8,000,000) who do not teach students, but were hired to support America’s Choice and Springboard.
We have spent at least $14 million on lawsuits. Some say that number is closer to $20 million. Who endorses this? Why are these lawsuits not questioned? What budget does this money actually come from?
Central Office can stand some cuts (223 people account for $25,000,000 in salaries without even considering benefits), but obviously it will also take collapsing and combining and outsourcing lower level administrative jobs as well.
Charles Hill, a member of the school closings task force, suggested that DCSS needs a task force of citizens to look into overall expenses rather than shuttering 4 schools for a savings of $2,000,000. I think he’s absolutely right.