Thursday, February 12, 2009
Construction Bond Funding for DeKalb County Schools: Requesting Equitable Funding
This information has been brought to us by Elena Parent, Sen. Adelman’s Chief of Staff. "It is Sen. Adelman’s belief that while there are many, many infrastructure projects of necessity in the DeKalb School System, there may not have been as many that were completely planned, passed by the School Board and “shovel ready” if you will as some of the other counties, and that those likely received the lion’s share of the bond package because they were ready for immediate funding."
When Ms. Parent asked for information from David Lakly, the Education Analyst for the Senate Budget and Evaluation Office, she got this response:
The Department of Education (DOE) awards money for Capital Projects based on need as determined by each system's five year capital outlay plan. The money allotted to DeKalb in the FY10 capital projects list is based on the plan DeKalb County submitted to DOE last year. This plan was approved by the DeKalb County School Board, and then approved by the State School Board. Without placing blame on either side, there has apparently been a good deal of miscommunication between DeKalb County and DOE. DeKalb contends that their current five year plan does not accurately reflect their current capital needs, and DOE has offered their assurance that they are currently working with DeKalb to assist with revision of their plan. This could result in more money for DeKalb in the FY11 for capital projects. Additionally, while it is currently a moving target, the proposed federal stimulus bill could provide additional money to DeKalb county for capital projects.
DeKalb County Schools received significantly less than other Metro school systems for construction needs in the Governor’s FY2010 budget recommendations for capital outlay and is therefore requesting additional capital outlay funding.
Metro District Allocations
DeKalb County $1,203,680
Fulton(includes APS) $22,522,568
The five year facility plan school systems must submit for funding under the Entitlement Program was developed by the state and does not accurately reflect the needs of school systems. The Entitlement Program formula used by the Department of Education (DOE) favors enrollment growth and currently provides significantly more funds to neighboring school systems over DeKalb. This Entitlement Program funding is not based on the needs assessments local districts provide to DOE. Instead, districts may only apply for a reimbursement based on DOE’s calculation, which does not factor in what the system’s believe reflects their needs. If districts do not accept this, they risk not receiving any construction funding.
DeKalb County Schools
• Is the third largest school system in the state and the current appropriation could not meet the facilities needs of even one school in the County
• Has more buildings than any other school system in the state
• Has over 600 mobile classroom units on our sites to assist with overcrowding
• Has aging school buildings (some are 40-60 years old) with older related infrastructure (ie: air conditioning units)
• Has $2 billion in facilities needs even after 3 SPLOSTs totaling $1 billion
• Spent $66 million on recent construction at 3 schools (Princeton ES, Flatrock ES and Dunwoody ES). As the current construction formula is structured, DeKalb is not eligible to receive funding reimbursement from the State for these necessary projects
• Has enrollment growth in particular regions of the county which has escalated the construction needs of these areas
• Can not provide SPLOST IV funds until 2014 and there are immediate construction/infrastructure needs that need to be met.
The construction bond funding formula was developed by the Department of Education and follows no Federal or State requirements. This formula can be changed without amending current state statute.
Proposed Changes/Recalculation for Capital Outlay Formula:
• Developing a formula which emphasizes school districts with stable enrollment and aging facilities instead of significant emphasis on school systems with enrollment growth.
• More transparency from DOE in the formula factors and funding priorities as they relate to construction bonds.
• A formula that does not penalize systems for 'seats' that are in buildings that have been decommissioned for use as instructional facilities. Simply redrawing attendance lines or redistricting would not solve the problem if this is still a factor in funding.