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Fiscal Year 2013 Budget

Hey Nancy,

In reading the article in today’s AJC regarding [the 5/22 budget] meeting, it seems that the county is trying to fill a $70m budget gap due to increased healthcare and retirement benefits.  I understand that healthcare costs are rising, however, retirement benefits should be slashed.  Nobody in the private sector receives retirement benefits.  So, if retirement is a rising cost, it should be mitigated in that any incoming new teacher will not receive retirement benefits just as anyone in the private sector.

Many PTAs in the area are helping to fund their schools.  They provide cleaning supplies, stipends for teachers to purchase supplies, provide substitute teachers, and purchase playground equipment for the schools.  The PTAs should not have to provide basic supplies to the schools in order for them to function properly, the county should provide those items.  This demonstrates how inefficiently the county is running the schools.

Montessori is once again on the agenda for removing from schools as well.  I think this is a HUGE mistake.  The Montessori class room equipment is already purchased and the classes use fewer consumables, like paper, pencils, etc., than traditional classrooms.  Montessori is a low cost option for parents and is part of the reason we moved into the school district.  Please fight to not remove the Montessori from the schools.

I saw that the county is considering removing Pre-K as an option to save money.  Doesn’t the lottery pay for Pre-k?  So, why cut pre-k?  That is crazy.

Also, I do not understand how the school board is complaining about money when they were able to cover a budget shortfall this year of over $40m by reallocating some funds.

What’s up with that?

Kelly

  1. Teacher’s Retirement

    As a public school system we are required to participate in the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS). You can find out more about this entity by going to their website. The TRS sets the rates that employees and the district must pay into the system. DeKalb does not have any control over these rates. You can view the contribution rates from 1980 here.

    PTAs

    I agree! The new administration is looking at how provisions are procured for schools.

    Montessori

    My understanding is that the proposal is to cut the extra teacher allotment for Montessori programs but not the offering of Montessori itself. The Board has received a list of cuts that include the elimination of extra teacher allotments not just for Montessori but all extra magnet teacher allotments as well. This is not eliminating the programs just the extra teachers that had been given to these programs that reduced class size relative to the class size at other schools in DeKalb. So, Montessori and Magnet programs can operate but will have the same class size situations as every other school. If your school is a Title I school, your principal can chose to use some of your Title I funding to reduce class size by adding staff. This year more Title I funding will be pushed to the schools. The estimate that I am hearing is $36 million will be made available to the Title I schools in the district. By comparison, last year only $18 million out of the $42 million the county received in Title I funding was pushed to the schools. So, if your school is Title I then these funds can be used to reduce class size.

    Pre-K

    Unfortunately, Pre-K is not fully funded by the state lottery. The funding we receive from the state covers about one half of our costs. There are also implications that cause the district to lose some of our state QBE funding when we house Pre-K within an elementary school. Most other metro districts do not offer pre-k within their schools. There are private Pre-K options that coordinate with “Bright from the start”. Parents can find a private Pre-K provider that participates in the public Pre-K program and learn more about Georgia’s Pre-K programs by visiting the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning website.

    Previous Budget Shortfall

    I think you are referring to the SPLOST III projected shortfall issue. SPLOST money is not allowed to be used for the operational budget. SPLOST is solely used for capital improvements pursuant to the list of projects brought before the voters to approve. Recently the voters approved a SPLOST IV referendum. SPLOST III had a number of budgeting problems culminating in projecting a shortfall that would hit toward the end of this year without adjusting the projects. The decisions creating these problems for SPLOST III were made before I was on the board. Based on several factors some of the projects were able to be moved from the SPLOST III list to the SPLOST IV list; alleviating the projected shortfall for the overall building program. Again, this did not involve any money that could be used for school operations.

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32 Comments

  1. Lynn says:

    Is the list of the proposed cuts going to be shared anywhere?

  2. Nancy Jester, DeKalb County Board Of Education says:

    Fiscal Year 2013 (2012-2013 School Year) Documents

  3. Michelle says:

    I think it would unfairly punish parents to eliminate pre-k or Montessori, given that these parents may have already given up other options thinking their child had a place. If they need to be cut, let them have time to find other schools (wait until 2013 – 2014 school year). Closing Fernbank is an interesting idea, I’ve never understood why the school system funds it.

  4. Carol says:

    With all of the news about possible class size increases, can you explain what the class sizes are for each grade level and how that is determined?

    I thought class size was set by state law, the legislature had given all schools a waiver to increase class size by 2 a few years ago, and that Dekalb had an additional waiver to increase class size above that 2 by an additional 1. Is that correct? If so, when the superintendent talks about increasing class size by 3, does she mean three more or continuing with the same increases from this year?

  5. D says:

    Can you clarify what line item #3 “Eliminate Additional Magnet Allotments” means in real terms? Does that mean that magnet programs, like Kittredge and Wadsworth will continue to exist without the extra magnet point and what goes along with them? What does it mean for programs that run within regular schools, like Evansdale? Is the program elimated, with the at-large students returning to their home schools, or does the school have to look for alternative funding for the magnet resouces? Please clarify this point so that parents can begin to think about alternative plans if this line item is eliminated.

  6. Nancy Jester, DeKalb County Board Of Education says:

    Pre-K
    I understand the dilemma regarding this issue. This is one of many potential cuts at this point. Nothing has been decided yet. It is necessary to cut the 2012-13 budget because we are anticipating a $73 million deficit. All the potential cuts we are discussing are for the upcoming FY2013.

    Class size
    It is my understanding that any of the proposed class size increases would be on top of past increases. The state does have class size standards but because they have cut state education funding extensively over the last several years, they have waived their class size limitations.

    Magnet Allotments
    Eliminating magnet “allotments” is not synonomous with eliminating the program. If your school has received “allotments” above their regular allotment for teachers based on your student count numbers (FTE), then these allotments would end under this proposal. If your school has been fitting the program within their regular allotment then it is my understanding that there wouldn’t be a change.

  7. M says:

    Nancy,

    I understand the point about eliminating extra magnet “allotments” expressed as “points” (and bringing student/teacher ratios in line with other schools) but I don’t think eliminating the Montessori “program” expressed as “positions” is the same thing. Montessori classes don’t have extra teacher allotments; in fact, the opposite is true. Since Montessori by nature is “student-led” hands-on education, the teacher only acts as facilitator. So the combined Pre-K/Kindergarten Montessori classroom may have as many as 30 kids with only one teacher. Each combined first-to-third grade classroom may have more. The actual number may be less based on enrollments but the trend is to have higher ratios than “traditional” classrooms, not lower.

    Can you help us clarify this point tonight? (And others listed in Proposed Budget Cuts?)

  8. Chris says:

    What’s up with cutting the Library/Media staff again? I would rather cut school days. Also, what does the staffing of a school library look like after proposed cuts? No tax increase, please, until we get process and efficiencies in place.

  9. Shanna Cox says:

    South and East Dekalb County does not have a lot of options for schools performing at AYP at the middle and high school levels and the magnet programs were really the only option if you were lucky enough to get it. A lot of kids stopped being able to participate when they cut off home based transportation, and now they are thinking about getting rid of the shuttles further putting ‘school choice’ out of the reach of many. All these cuts are going to do is drive middle class folks out of these areas at a faster rate than what already is happening, combined with the egregious foreclosure rates, if they are not forward thinking about this they are going to create a cycle that condemns that half of Dekalb county as undesirable. Okay, do not raise the millage rate, but if they did not factor in foreclosures in home value adjustments this year, maybe the shortfall wouldn’t be as bad, did anyone ever consider that? I just hope as these cuts are put into place they will not affect the ‘least among us’ as they always do!

  10. Shanna Cox says:

    Eliminating Pre K has to be the most non forward thinking thing a person who cares about their community can do and it makes absolutely no fiscal sense. Early education has been tied to better health outcomes, lower teen pregnancy rates, higher job security, lower juvenile crime rates, yet shortsidghtedly, it is being proposed for cuts from this county. Do you think higher income pople and businesses will choose Dekalb county if we choose such an archaic option to close outr budget problems? People who have the money to pay fro Pre K will be fine, those who do not will spend time not being prepared for grade K and starting on the slippery slope of academic insufficiency. I pray that the leaders of this county have more for sight than to even consider cutting Pre K, a penny spent in prevention today prevents a dollar spent in cure tomorrow!

  11. S.E. says:

    In the AJC article on May 22, 2012, the following statement “pullback in overtime pay would save another $5 million. ” was rather unsettling. Who gets overtime pay in this school system and why? What areas? Who authorized it? $5 million dollars is a huge amount of overtime!

  12. L.W. says:

    Do you know why summer school is not discussed as an area of savings? I teach eighth grade, and it seems that the expense in terms of teacher salaries, school overhead, and transportation would be better invested in smaller class sizes during the regular school year for the students struggling in math and reading. With Georgia’s No Child Left Behind waiver and schools not being judged by a few high stakes tests, the necessity of trying to immediately reteach and retest these students has gone away. Please don’t think I mean we shouldn’t address the needs of these students. I just believe that summer school has become a punishment that is used to intimidate students, and it doesn’t actually help them much when they attend.

  13. C.M.D. says:

    Nancy:
    if Pre-K ends up being cut, is that just the programs housed within public schools? Or are the private Pre-K’s (held in childcare centers) to be cut as well?

  14. B. King says:

    My specific dilemma is that since both me and my wife work, my son is currently enrolled at a private daycare. We elected to enroll him in the State Pre-K program offered by the DeKalb County School District, turning down a spot that was reserved for him for next year at the daycare. Now that we have learned about the potential cuts, especially if it is the entire program, we are especially nervous about what may come. We have gone back to our daycare to see about getting him re-enrolled and we cannot because his spot has since been filled. We are fearful of having to find another daycare for 1 year, especially when we are very happy with the center where he is currently enrolled. The thought of sending him to a new place, having to adjust to that, and then doing it again for kindergarten is awful.

    I can appreciate the fact the there are budget shortfalls and that the money has to be made up from somewhere. The most difficult thing to process is that the Pre-K program is being considered to be cut this close to the beginning of the next school year. There must be hundreds or thousands of parents that made the same difficult decisions that we made, passing on other Pre-K opportunities that have since been filled with other children at this late stage. I am asking that you please not eliminate the Pre-K program from DeKalb County for 2012-2013.

  15. Andrea Johnson says:

    I am also extremely disappointed by the fact that cutting pre-K is considered an option two months prior to school starting. Many families have made decisions for their children, work and family situations based on what we thought was enrollment in a Dekalb County pre-K program. Like the previousl poster, my son has lost his pre-K spot at his current school. If there is no pre-K program in August, I will be frantically searching for other pre-K alternatives, which are probably few and far between at this point. Not to mention, I have my work schedule, commute and care for another child to consider. Thankfully my family has the income and resources to make the best of what could be a rotten situation, but I imagine there are other parents that will not have the financial or transportation means to make alternate arrangements at such late notice. I can’t believe this topic is even up for consideration so late in the year. Please consider other alternatives and provide a year’s notice before eliminating pre-K if that is absolutely what needs to be done.

  16. K. Thorpe says:

    Cutting Pre-K – Bad Choice –

    My husband and I understand the need to balance the Dekalb county school budget and fill the deficit. However, the timing of making such a large change which will impact some 2200 students and their families seems short-sighted. Cutting such a program is short-sighted in the long term development of our children. Doing so a mere 60 days prior the beginning of the school year is just plain ludicrous and will impact these families, including ourselves, greatly. Some, if not most, will struggle to find alternate arrangements for their children and then there are the costs associated with such arrangements. We are not just talking about money and child care. The on-going academic, emotional and social development of these children are being impacted if these families are unable to find a quality alternative or afford what they are able to find in such short notice. We again have to ask why not figure out a way to keep the program going, at least, for the coming school year and then announce that it will be eliminated going forward. This would allow current pre-K parents (who have already been selected through the lottery for 2012-2013) to send their kids to DeKalb schools and parents of pre-K students for next year (2013-2014) to plan for this and not expect the lottery?

    I have to add that it seems illogical that these deficits and suggested recommendations were not already being reviewed by the county prior to the lottery in April. Had this notion or concept been communicated or considered prior to the lottery or if the lottery had simply been suspended pending these decisions, parents would have been in much better place to accept such a large change and the impact less severe.

    We both appreciate you listening to our concerns and hope there is some remedy to this situation.

  17. Nancy Jester, DeKalb County Board Of Education says:

    Pre-K

    I followed up with the Superintendent about this matter recently. We don’t have a definitive answer yet. The budget for FY2013 has not yet been approved by the board. Once approved, if the pre-k budget is cut in DeKalb I understand that it could mean that (1) pre-k is no longer offered (with special education pre-k being an exception pursuant to federal and state law) or (2) pre-k could be offered to the extent that the state reimburses DCSD for this program. No decision has been made at this time. Please stay tuned regarding this issue.

    Note about State Funding for Pre-K

    The state does not fully fund/reimburse the district for the pre-k offering at our schools. Other school districts around the metro area have removed pre-k from their offerings for this reason. Parents can take advantage for state funded pre-k through a variety of private centers that offer the program. They can find providers on the state’s “Bright from the Start” (Georgia Department of Early Learning and Care) website.

  18. D says:

    Nancy, I think there is a lot of general mistrust towards the board members, much of which is based on past communication gaps. It would be very helpful if for each line item on the proposed budget cut list a short explanation is given as to why it was adopted or rejected.

  19. isis5632 says:

    Nancy,

    Please understand, the GOOD private pre k’s on the link you provide ARE ALREADY FULL WITH WAITING LISTS!!!!! Not all Pre K’s are run equally, but the majority through the school system are and it provides a sense of continuity for the child and family. I have started trying to develop a back up plan in case the slot I thought I had is not there and visiting Pre K’s in my area that still have space. I want you to go visit Reading World Academy on Columbia Road. Or Pilgrims on Tilson and tell me if you would send YOUR child there. What part of people gave up spots at good private schools once they got accepted at their neighborhood school you just doesn’t the school board get?

  20. Andrea Johnson says:

    Agree with the above posters about Pre-K. We realize there are alternatives, but the good ones do not have space available when their school year starts in 6 weeks! Please consider voting to keep Pre-K in place this year since so many families will struggle to find a comparable program at the last minute. Working families also have the challenge of finding a full day program that is high quality. Please do not minimize the disruption this will cause for many families at this late notice.

    I don’t understand why there was even a lottery if this was a possibility. The lack of communication to parents is disheartening. It may be that doing away with Pre-K is the right decision, but it’s an action that should be taken with proper planning to allow families to make alternative choices.

  21. Michelle says:

    Pre-K: The good, private, non-lottery funded, preschools are also full with waiting lists.I certainly hope the board carefully considers the ramifications of cutting pre-k to the many families across the county who will be affected.

    Fernbank: Can the Board not find anything to cut from their budget? The recent lists of the FSC salaries posted on the Dekalb School Watch II website are outrageous.

  22. A.T. says:

    Thank you for taking the time to clarify after this morning’s meeting [6/11] that an actual 300+ positions have been or are in the process of being eliminated from the central office.

    I think the news that a ton of jobs were recoded clouded the understanding that additional cuts from the remaining positions were really happening. It seemed like another version of the shell game we’ve seen from previous administrations. I knew about the original 73, saw the budget line item for 70, but had not heard of the additional 160+ (?).

    I would love to see a very clear ppt slide that explains which areas were impacted, exact number of positions, and total $ saved. I think that will go a LONG way in reducing the noise you hear about that budget item, although I am still of the mindset that insane discomfort needs to be felt by those who never work with students before that pain is passed on to those who do.

  23. WUWT Moderator says:

    Tonight at 6pm is the regularly scheduled monthly board business meeting. Attend the meeting at the DCSD administration building, view it online at Comcast 24 or stream it on your computer at PDS 24

    ‘http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/pds-tv24

    Action Items will include the discussion and approval of DeKalb County School District Budget for 2012-2013 (FY2013).

  24. Anne Palmer Johnson says:

    Can someone explain why the board members were absent this morning? This, along with the 9%/12 million tax digest bombshell, seem very strange and suspicious to me. Did these folks not know they had a meeting? No explanation was given?”

  25. Cynthia says:

    Nancy,
    What are your positions on the new budget shortfalls, the areas to cut spending, and the June 20 vote. In general, I do NOT want classroom resources in core subjects cut, but I think principals should be able to look at specific programs to cut or realign. At Lakeside HS, for example, you cut could the entire PE faculty and not miss a thing. Although I believe in the value of physical activity, many of their current PE faculty do not provide a good example for students. Please continue to cut central administration costs first and school level costs second.

  26. Holly says:

    Nancy,

    Now that the vote has been made and Pre-K’s funding has cut positions to “Non-Certified” salary scale. What happens to the Certified Pre-K teachers who have already been issued contracts and promised teaching positions for next year? Are their contracts still valid?

    On a side note– I watched all the meetings. You made some VERY good relavent points! Thank you for being one of the MOST intelligent members up there!

  27. Cheryl says:

    Thank you for going to bat for the citizens of DeKalb who do not need or want another tax increase. We are sorry that the Superintendent did not answer you properly regarding the possibility of cutting salaries at a certain level dollar-wise and hope you will further investigate this option for cuts to the administration side of things, esp. if we will be in the same situation next year.

    Thank you for all that you do! If you are permitted to give any insight on the candidates for Womack’s seat, we would love to hear your feedback on whom you would most like to work with. We, sadly, have reservations about all of them.

  28. Jennifer says:

    My son is supposed to start pre-k in August at Chesnut. I know that the Board approved the 2013 budget last week and that 2.7 million was cut from pre-k. However, there seems to be lots of confusion (including in the media) as to what this actually means in terms of this coming school year’s pre-k classes.

    From what I have read, there will still be pre-k programs in the public elementary schools but they will only be funded with the state amount, correct? What does this mean for the school year? What does this mean in terms of the current pre-k teachers? Will they have to change to uncertified teachers? Will the program have a shorter day? More students? Will there still be a paraprofessional in the class?

    Can you provide more information please? There are a lot of confused parents out there!

  29. CLM says:

    Nancy,

    Can our district still claim to be “self-insured” while simultaneously admitting to have a zero balance in any reserve fund? What is up with that?

    And, does the board understand the absurdity of rasing taxes in a county while simultaneously cutting a large number of jobs? Do they not understand how having a job and being able to pay taxes are linked where one is very difficult to do without the other? What is up with that?

  30. Linda says:

    Now that the budget has been finalized and there will be furlough days for the teachers, I hope you will consider using student contact days where appropriate and allow the teachers to maintain as many of their teacher workdays as possible. Teacher workdays are planned for a reason and to take them away you are not only reducing the teacher’s pay, you are effectively requiring them to do work outside of the time they are paid.

    I have always believed that an instructionally sound school calendar should be built from an end date backwards. Since the state mandates the testing window, the end date should be the earliest possible day after all the testing is completed that allows for testing results to be returned to the school and handled before the end of classes. Building a calendar from the end backwards would allow for the maximum possible days of instruction prior to the state mandated end of year tests. So you should be looking at next years’ testing dates and determine the earliest date that could be the last day of school and any student contact days after that date should be fair game for furloughs as those days are often used for non-instructional activities.

    The current 2012-13 calendar has at least two days after the Memorial Day holiday that should be considered for furloughs – May 28th and 29th. Those two days of instruction will never be missed as they are after all the state mandated end of year tests. In the many classes where the curriculum has already been taught prior to the testing you will find these days after testing are used watching movies and doing other non-instructional type activities. These two days of instruction will never be missed. In the high school and middle school classes where students take a teacher prepared final, I am sure that most would prefer to do that before a holiday weekend rather than come back after the holidays for finals. Also, it is likely that these two days would have high absenteeism since for many years school finished prior to Memorial Day and families choose to take vacation during that holiday week.

    It may even be possible to use more student contact days as furloughs in the week prior to Memorial Day. This year we finished school on the Thursday before Memorial Day. If it is determined that testing results could be back in time to allow for the last day to be prior to Memorial Day, I think you should consider using even more student days at the end of the year. Any days you use after the state mandated end of year tests are far better choices then days prior to the testing period or teacher workdays.

    Instead of your first choice being to furlough the teachers on the workdays that they need, please look at furlough days on at least May 28th and May 29th, and if possible student contact days in the week prior to Memorial Day.

  31. Sue says:

    Kittredge must cut 8 points. That is almost one-quarter of the teaching personnel in the building! Some teachers at Chamblee MS stated something similar. How can this be done while the cuts at the central office have only been 75 out of the recommended 300?

    What is the Superintendents and/ or Board’s issue with not cutting the positions who do not interact with and support children?

  32. Heather says:

    Evansdale Elementary has been operating its magnet program with only 2 points. There is only one magnet class per grade level so it is different from most other choice schools where the entire school provides the program. I understand that the class sizes will increase, however, if our only magnet points are cut how will the school be able to provide a magnet program to its magnet children? If Kittredge is losing 25% of its points, then Evansdale would be losing 100% of its points, if both points are cut. This doesn’t seem fairly distributed. Essentially this cuts our magnet program or it takes stuff away from our regular classes. Right now one point is for French and one for Science. How will this program work under this new budget? Thanks.

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