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Some of our most outrageously expensive programs are of course high needs special education (Margaret Harris spends $35,942.47 on average per pupil and Coralwood: $24,881.44 per pupil). But you may be surprised to learn that some of our alternative programs cost much more (Some examples: DeKalb Truancy: $45,292.61 per pupil, DeKalb Early College Academy: $14,410.78 per pupil, Elizabeth Andrews HS: $12,151.96 per pupil, DeKalb Alternative: $20,792.11 and DeKalb Alternative Night School: $18,958.90, DeKalb Transition: $20,265.86, Gateway to College Charter: $16,319.21).
Interestingly, as we expected, DeKalb School of the Arts and other magnets cost more per student than regular schools—however, some regular schools spend far more per student than others. Factor in the additional bump from Title 1 and some of our schools are bringing in quite a lot of money for student education.
So it seems that we have plenty of money to educate our students. Why are we having to cram over 30 in a classroom? Why are we having to cut parapros, media clerks, tech support and hands-on staff? With a $1.2 Billion (with a "B") annual budget, we simply have enough money.
The total in Title 1 funds allocated to DeKalb Schools according to this chart (the data is also inconsistent everywhere you turn), is $52,446,907.75. Fifty-two and a half million dollars. I have to think that somehow this money could impact our children's ability to learn to read and write and do math. Why are test scores still so abysmally low in so many of our Title 1 schools? Take Columbia High School, for example. Columbia received an additional $1,077,434.20 in Title 1 allocated funds in 2009-10. Yet, Columbia has not made AYP, is in Needs Improvement Year 3, is in Corrective Action and must offer a transfer choice and supplemental tutoring services.
The average per pupil funding—including Title 1—for Columbia students is $9,380.02. Compare that with Lakeside's per pupil average funding of $7,834.76 (with no Title 1 compensation whatsoever). Lakeside has consistently made AYP and maintained decent test scores overall. Same goes for Dunwoody High School, with a per pupil funding (no Title 1 bump) of $7,773.66, Dunwoody makes the grade. In fact, these schools make the grade just as well as say, Chamblee, the magnet school for high achievers with a per student cost of $8,021.73 (no Title 1 bump) or even the wildly expensive DSA—at a whopping $11,612.95 per pupil. Then, compare all of those to Arabia (a non-Title 1 school) which only gets $5,214.29 per pupil—the lowest in the entire system.
The "regular" elementary schools is where the funding is all over the board. We spend anywhere from a low of $6,920.66 per pupil at Dunwoody Elementary to a high of $12,857.36 at Knollwood ES. Again, on the low end, we have Narvie Harris at $7,600.40 per pupil, Fernbank at $7,894.97 per pupil, Oak Grove at $7,930.98 per pupil and Vanderlyn at $7,954.17 per pupil. Over at the high end, we top off spending at Wadsworth where we spend $13,010.20 per pupil. Nipping at Wadsworth's spending heels is Gresham Park at $12,804.60 per pupil, Huntley Hills at $12,275.73 per pupil, Bob Mathis at $12,207.36, Peachcrest at $11,872.83 and Sky Haven at $11,828.01 per pupil. (In case you're wondering, Kittredge isn't far behind at $11,001.34 per pupil.)
Now, certainly, some of these schools have more special education students (and dollars per student) than others, some have more gifted, some have other needs that require special funding, so there is really no best way to compare apples to apples exactly. But this is the best we have, and by and large, the comparisons simply show that we have a whole lot of work to do to get our schools back in balance. Work that goes far beyond simply rearranging deck chairs.
Note: The picture of the spreadsheet is hard to read, so if you would like the actual Excel spreadsheet we received from DCSS, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send it to you.