Sunday, January 30, 2011

Emory Lavista Parent Council hosts Fran Millar, Mary Margaret Oliver and Joe Martin - Part 1

First, before I write a single word about this very informative meeting, let me give major props to the Hospitality Committee and parents at Hawthorne Elementary. I have never seen such an enormous, delicious spread of food at a school-related meeting! They created a welcoming reception for our meeting participants, organizers and attendees.

Friday morning, January 28, the Emory Lavista Parent Council held a very informative meeting focusing on two related topics: “The 2011 Legislative Update” brought to us by State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (Dem, Decatur, House District 83) and State Sen. Fran Millar (Rep., Dunwoody, Senate District 40) and “How State Funding for Schools Really Works” as explained by Joe Martin, past Executive Director of the Georgia School Funding Association and recent candidate for state school superintendent.

First, Mary Margaret Oliver (MMO) and Fran Millar highlighted the education-related bills before the legislature this session. SB 84 which outlines ethics for school board elections, has been in effect for two years and states that school boards must create an ethics policy (our school board is still tweaking one) and also says that school boards are limited to seven members unless under local amendment or federal court order. MMO pre-filed HB 22, a locally written bill redrawing attendance lines for the DeKalb school board. Currently the bill is written as dividing into five districts, but it could change to seven. (She took an informal poll and a show of hands in the room preferred five.) In addition, now State Rep. Mike Jacobs has filed HB 63, a statewide bill on the topic that sets school boards at seven members. Although, according to the AJC, "it applies only to school boards in counties with a Homestead Option Sales Tax and education tax -- which is only DeKalb -- and mandates a seven-member board", his bill must pass the House and Senate statewide.

Fran Millar informed us that without the federal stimulus, states would not have been able to balance their budgets and schools would have seen even deeper cuts. There is a funding hole that has not closed so prepare for more major cuts to education from the state. Fran announced that there is a new committee charged with conducting a two-year study on revising the QBE school funding formula. In addition, he would like to see better flow between K-12, technical colleges and universities. He would like to see more opportunities for technical and vocational studies as well as allowing students to Move On When Ready, as evidenced in his B.R.I.D.G.E. bill.

The lottery funds do not benefit K-12 as many people believe, they are spent 2/3 on Pre-K and 1/3 on HOPE college scholarships. Both say that the HOPE scholarship will definitely be revamped. Recommendations include perhaps creating a flat amount for college grants or funding only 80% of tuition or making the scholarships to needs based or perhaps distributed according to a sliding scale. In addition, neither legislator wanted to change the GPA from 3.0 to 3.5 (saying it would only encourage more grade inflation), but adding an ACT or SAT component would be a good idea.

(next post: Joe Martin’s presentation at the same meeting)

You can view Lynn Jackson's presentation on state school construction funding here:
The video of the meeting is found here:


Anonymous said...

Was anyone at this meeting? I understand Fran told the group he no longer has a bias in Dunwoody as his grandaughter moved away. He did not mention he has another daughter still in the Austin area with a child going on Austin next year. And his inlaws live in a different area of north Dunwoody. He must have forgotten about all of them

Anonymous said...

State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver wants to hear from you regarding HOPE!

Second newsletter question: How would you vote to save HOPE, which is running out of money? What benefits of the HOPE Scholarship would you eliminate to allow the scholarships to continue for the maximum number of qualified students?

The HOPE reserves from the lottery profits will be spent in the near future, and the lottery profits will not be enough to fund all Georgia’s pre-K Students and HOPE scholars who want to participate. Please consider which of the following spending reductions the General Assembly should adopt to reduce current spending of HOPE. Choose more than one option or rank your reductions if you like:

1. Require a means test so the HOPE scholarship would only be available to students from families with incomes less than $100,000.00. Less than $75,000.00?

2. Reduce tuition scholarship to 80% of total cost of tuition, books and fees. Benefits for books and fees have already been reduced. This option reduces the scholarship equally for all students now qualifying.

3. Cap the tuition scholarships so that students attending the more expensive state schools will only receive partial scholarship and students attending the less expensive schools will receive the full HOPE scholarship. Georgia Tech and UGA are the most expensive of the 35 colleges in the Georgia Regents system.

4. Deny HOPE scholarships to students requiring remedial classes upon admission to college. Argument: HOPE scholars who have received the benefit of grade inflation to achieve the B average, are not ready for college work, have not really “qualified” as a HOPE scholar.

5. Raise the grade average to qualify to B+ instead of B.

What do you think?

To reply to the weekly question about saving HOPE, email me at

Anonymous said...

use an ACT/SAT qualifier as a 5th option... e-mail her (Fran Millar suggested this one...).

Cerebration said...

I do not recall Fran saying a word about his family or his bias in Dunwoody. Quite the contrary. He was very focused on state issues—especially HOPE and Pre-K as well as trying to restructure our school systems in order to offer options for high school. He's very concerned that with the new federally mandated method of calculating graduation rates, Georgia's will go down significantly. Currently, we are told our statewide graduation rate is 80% - but the new methods could show an immediate drop to 70% or below.

Cerebration said...

Also, Fran announced a meeting on the new Longitudinal Data System (our new, statewide data system for tracking students) happening this Thursday at 3 PM at the Capitol. He was very positive about the new system, stating that it was developed and will be run by an outside firm. (No government staff.)

Also - Fran recommended the Southern Regional Education Board as a good resource for school-related information in Georgia.

Anonymous said...

Cere et all.


Thanks for the input. As I said that is what I heard. Maybe it was a small group not the larger group.

I appreciate the information sharing here!!!

Anonymous said...

No means test for the Hope please.
Our middle incme families are already being squeezed. Do you really think it is anywhere near feasable for a family making 100-200 to foot the bill for college for 2-3 kids? I have been saving since my children were born and will be lucky to save half of the tuition.
Higher standards for sure!

Anonymous said...


Most of the other 50 states don't have HOPE programs, in fact TN and Fl are the only ones who come close.

What do middle class families in those states do?

Anonymous said...

Yes on SAT/ACT related to HOPE. it is insane that students who need to take remedial classes get HOPE.

Anonymous said...

Cere and Anon 9:40,

Fran most definitely did address his "bias" when speaking to the entire audience. He spoke about his grandson (I believe) and his daughter living in Dunwoody who are about to move out of state, eliminating any interest he might have in redistricting fight. He did not mention another daughter.

Cere, thanks for focusing on more important points of meeting. Just wanted to clarify.

Anonymous said...

Middle income families in many other states have creative savings plans available to all.
I think if Hope is availalbe, it should be available for all. What I thin we should do is up the standards.
BTW- I doubt either of my children will qualify, so I am not going to benefit either way.

Julie said...

It is a shame that Fran brought his personal bias into the conversation about these other very important topics.

Cerebration said...

HOPE (which stands for Helping Outstanding Pupils Everywhere) - should be about promoting higher education for deserving students. HOPE has done a really good job of keeping our best students in-state and made our colleges much more competitive and arguably better. We should not have to pay for remedial college courses due to high school grade inflation. Really, the only way to combat this is to add an SAT/ACT component. That said - I don't see why we couldn't ALSO add a needs-based component. Perhaps we could assign a certain amount of HOPE money to the remedial courses. After all, these students need the support because our high schools somehow failed them and these courses are known to improve student's chances for success in college long-term. Call it recovery - but if we don't make up the gaps in education, wouldn't that be some kind of malfeasance?

Cerebration said...

ps - not to harp on the issue - but I did not hear Fran say a single word about his family and I was there from the opening of the meeting. If this was discussed, either it was in a small group after, or I am losing parts of my mind.

Kim Gokce said...

These minutes or notes are an invaluable service! As someone who used to be able to make more of these meetings (parenthood, ironically, makes going to parent meetings more difficult), I can't express my full gratitude to Cere and other contributors who share here at DCSW.

Anonymous said...

"ps - not to harp on the issue - but I did not hear Fran say a single word about his family and I was there from the opening of the meeting. If this was discussed, either it was in a small group after, or I am losing parts of my mind."

I was sitting at the front and what Fran addressed were accusations of him being biased because of his grandchild being in a Dunwoody elementary. He brought this up when he first took the mic. Julie, he did not "bring his personal bias" into the conversation he was merely pointing out that he does not actually have a personal stake in the redistricting process.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Cere, but your thoughts were elsewhere for a few minutes. He made these remarks fairly early in his address (then alluded to them later.) I am pretty sure my 2 ELPC Board member friends sitting next to me could confirm his (and my) statements.

JULIE, Fran is not "bringing his personal bias" into the debate, quite the contrary! He did not advocate for Dunwoody schools or express a preference for one redistricting plan over another. Instead, he was simply (and lightheartedly) countering claims others have made that he has a personal stake in the fight by revealing his daughter/grandchild are moving out of state this week and are no longer enrolled in a Dunwoody school! His comments were part of a personal avowal NOT to take sides in the debate.

Anyone else with ears want to back me up on this one????

Anonymous said...

I also heard him say something about being "harassed" about a bias with his son being at Austin and that he's about to move to NY and he didn't appreciate the "harassment" (some but not all of this was "offline"). He indicated that he didn't have an opinion on the redistricting because his grandson was moving north (this was to the full group).

Julie said...

By neglecting to mention the rest of his family live in the Austin area, he WAS trying to change the view of himself as biased (which I very much believe he is.) This was not the place to talk about Dunwoody at all.
Again those who are following his misinformation do not have a large forum to correct this.
To me it is really sad, as his political message is good in general. His behind the scenes manipulating up here is WRONG.

Cerebration said...

Ok, I will choose to believe I missed it because I was busy buttering my bagel...

At any rate - we have some big issues being debated at the state level and I think this is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

I was at the meeting and also recall Fran mentioning his grandson currently at Austin moving to NY in 2 weeks. It was his opening statement. I believe he felt obligated to make this statement because there were rumors he was meddling with the redistricting process.

Maureen Downey raised questions on her blog on 1/19. She did not mention Fran by name but alluded to DeKalb legislators staying out of the redistricting process.

Anonymous said...

If we lost 2 board members, which two would we lose ... who are the at large ones?

Anonymous said...

Disrupt more schools. Save less money.

That’s the centralized plan.

Disrupt fewer schools. Save more money.

That’s the decentralized plan.


Anonymous said...

I think Maureen was talking about Mike Jacobs - he has been upfront and center about trying to make sure the magnets stay in Chamblee.

Anonymous said...

Close the proposed small schools and put all of our efforts into making the rezoned students and families comfortable. THERE IS LITTLE TO NO COST SAVINGS IN THE REST OF THE REDISTRICTING. WAIT AND DO THAT LATER.

Anonymous said...

Fran clearly stated at the beginning of his talk that his grandchild was moving to NY in 2 wks. And that that should stop any talk about his bias - clearly implying that he had no dog in the show. If he has other grandchildren enrolling at any Dunwoody school, he clearly misled those present at ELPC.

No Duh said...

Yes, Cere. He said it. I took it as light-hearted and sort of a "geez, the criticism never stops" kinda statement. Don't know (nor care) about any other family he had in the audience. Statement wasn't worth a butterless bagel.

I was just disgusted when he told one questioner that our problems with DCSS are of our own making, since we didn't get enough of our neighbors out to vote. Such an insulting cop-out of an answer to her point that Ethics legislation is worthless when the fox is guarding the hen house. Particularly to this group -- some of the most dedicated, involved, spot-on accurate DCSS watchers out there.

Great report. You are an amazing asset to DeKalb taxpayers.

No Duh said...

meant to say any other family he has in Dunwoody.

Anonymous said...

Problems in DeKalb are indeed of our own making. They stem from all the issues Kim so articulately outlines just about every time he posts on this blog: when we don't insist on excellent schools for all, and are content to protect our own neighborhoods over things that have nothing to do with academic quality, this is what we get.

The fact that Eugene Walker was re-elected because of an implied promise that he would protect a certain community speaks to this. This is not Sen Millar's fault and while Mike Jacobs is endorsing specific redistricting proposals - Millar is not.

Kim Gokce said...

Anon 9:31 "This is not Sen Millar's fault and while Mike Jacobs is endorsing specific redistricting proposals - Millar is not."

I was very surprised by that, actually. Isn't that a kind of a gimmie for political purposes? I don't blame him. The system has done a terrible job of framing the debate and they put this financial data on a tee for sloganeering and he knocked it out of the park.

I mean, he certainly couldn't come out FOR moving the High Achievers magnet and expect to get re-elected in this district ever again or even walk his dog without looking over his shoulder.

I'm a supporter of Mike. I was when he had a 'D' and remain one now with the 'R' behind his title. We can disagree about this one. I was surprised, though, that he jumped into this debate at all. I thought it beneath the office, frankly speaking.

Btw, thank you for the kind word. I do believe in many ways we are our own worst enemy. Anyone who reads what I post or who will chat with me off-line knows that I support our teachers, parents and children in Chamblee and Cross Keys attendance areas and beyond with full dedication. It is when our PTAs turn into PACs that I get cynical and discouraged.

TiQuavious from Tucker said...

No means testing for the HOPE. People of ALL incomes by lottery tickets and should not face discrimination just because they reap the benefits of a quality education/hard work.

Sharply limit paying for remedial classes instead, along with an overall cap. UGA and GA Tech have the highest prices and should strive to reduce their cost structure.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the poor disproportionately buy lottery tickets. It is essentially a tax on the poor, though no one makes them buy the tickets.

Anonymous said...


this slamming of Fran is from Dunwoody's SOW crowd. Fran DID NOT support Redovian's campaign. fran's name was not on The List of supporters in Redovian's political ads in The Dunwoody Crier. Fran realized Jester was a better candidate so he stayed out of the race and endorsed no one. The SOW group has not yet realized that elections have consequences. I admit my new home is in NOW territory so I stay at Vanderlyn. The SOW group needs to put its focus on its new school.

Anonymous said...

The gossip around my Tucker neighborhood is this: a wife of a DCSS Board Member who attends a Tucker gym says that Livsey would never be closed and was only put on the closure list to avoid discrimination claims. Not sure how they could take it off the list and avoid those same claims later...

But, this does imply an Option C is in the works.

Anonymous said...

Jay's wife works at the gymnastic center at the Tucker Rec.

There were some MAJOR questionable financial issues there two years ago that the AJC did not cover even though they were contacted with info. on it.

Anonymous said...

If all small schools do not close, than this entire process, the money paid to the consultants, the time of the consultants, the time of the parents attending the meetings, was for not.

I am tired of some schools closing while others who are under funded are able to remain open. I am also tired of some children being educated in DCSS, while others are passed on with little skills, making tax payers pay for these individuals later on down the line in some way.

All of our children deserve a Fernbank elementary education. All of our children deserve the opportunity to a quality experience in middle and high school as well. If DCSS and the current administration employed cannot provide this for every DCSS child, than it's time to clean house and find those that can and care about ALL children and not just a select few.

I do not live in the South end of the county, but in the middle and am sick and tired of seeing our children fall further and further behind with more money being wasted and salaries for waste go up while the number of teachers and their salaries go down. No good teacher is going to stay in defunct DCSS for long, they will get their feet wet and high tail it out of here as soon as a better job opens up.

Anonymous said...

Uh-oh. See link below. One of the reasons we have so many Central Office administrators in the first place: Because so many are New Birth members who promote their own, despite whether they have the required experience or not. Still not sure why Eddie gets $120,000+ a year in rent for the DeKalb Leadership Academy when we have unused schools.

Anonymous said...

Jay Cunningham's lawyer, Dwight Thomas, is also one of Eddie Long's lawyers. Small world.

Anonymous said...

Of course it is the residents of the new DES that will point out Fran Millar's bias. And it was certainly within his right to not support Jim Redovian. What is your point? I believe in his overall politics, but he needs to stay out of the school pbusiness. NOT his job, either publicly or behind the scenes. That makes sleezy politics.

Anonymous said...

Fran Millar and other members of the DeKalb Dleegation get more calls and e-mails about the county school system than any other issue! This comes from them directly.

They provide one of our only forms of check's and balance's! I'm glad that Howard Mosby, Mary Margaret Oliver, Mike Jacobs, etc. are taking notice of the problems with DCSS. We need them, because this BOE and Central Office do not listen to the public and are too entrenched to fix the mess.

Paula Caldarella said...

Politicians should stay out of the redistricting issue.

Anonymous said...

The DeKalb Delegation should be actively involved in making sure the redistricting issue is done properly.

My lord, we have a school system where the superintendent and Chief Operating Officer were arrest for criminal enterprise.
C'mon D-woody Mom!!!

I wish the DeKalb Delegation, minus Ron Ramsey, paid closer attention. Maybe the Dekalb Delegation can make sure Ramona Tyson posts meeting minutes again (missing since July 2010), and forces the Central Office to produce the 2004 Ernst & Young salary audit!!!

Paula Caldarella said...

Done properly according to who? Mike Jacobs, Fran Millar??? They are politicians - they are trying to appease their constituency, not do what is best for the entire DCSS.

Nope, politicians have no business trying to push any redistricting options. Let them get their bill passed to reduce the school board....that's what they need to do.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Fran:

Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, the chairman of the Senate Education and Youth Committee, said the state has not made large-scale changes to the formula in decades, and the laws need to reflect significant changes that have occurred in education.

Millar said he and other legislators have discussed forming a joint committee with House members and Georgia residents that will recommend changes, much like the special committee that recommended a large-scale tax overhaul for this session. It would probably take a year for the committee to make its recommendations, and legislation could be proposed for the 2012 session of the General Assembly, Millar said.

Cerebration said...


On Thursday, February 3, 2011, at 6:00pm, the DeKalb Board of Education will hold a Public Budget Input Hearing in the J. David Williamson Board Room at the DeKalb County School System's Administrative & Instructional Complex, 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard, Stone Mountain.

The purpose of the Hearing is to receive input from the public regarding the taxpayers’ priorities in preparation for the development of the 2011-2012 school system budget. The agenda for the hearing is attached.

The agenda can be accessed online by going to:, click on Leadership, go to eBoard Home Page and click on the date for the meeting agenda.