Here we go!

After the school board’s refusal to approve a Druid Hills Charter Cluster, many in attendance quipped, “this is going to light the fire for independent schools”. And they were right. Dunwoody is first out of the gate with this announcement:

The city of Dunwoody has received the feasibility study on an independent school district, prepared by Dr. Christine P. Ries, an economics professor at Georgia Tech, and the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

The study, paid for by the city and Dunwoody Parents Concerned about Quality Education, shows an independent city school district using current DeKalb County school board tax rates would have an operating surplus of $30.7 million. That figure could be expanded if non-instructional services such as maintenance, food service and transportation were contracted.

“The revenues available to operate Dunwoody’s schools and a new Dunwoody district office will be more than sufficient to support the cost of current educational operations,” the report concludes.

The transmission of the report came on the same day the Georgia Supreme Court upheld Gov. Nathan Deal’s removal of six members of the former DeKalb County Board of Education. And it comes in the same month the current board voted down the effort by parents in the Druid Hill High School cluster to form a self-governing charter cluster.

“Hopefully this decision will give impetus to the independent school district movement,” said state Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody).

The study is part of an effort led by state Rep. Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody) to pass a resolution in the next session of the General Assembly allowing a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment to allow new cities to create their own school districts. Support will soon be forthcoming from the Sandy Springs and Brookhaven city councils.

Taylor’s resolution is narrowly tailored to the new cities to reassure county school systems around the state that they would not be balkanized.

Read more >> Study: Dunwoody school district would have $30 million surplus

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32 Responses to Here we go!

  1. And from Tucker >>>

    Want to Hear From Your Neighbors about the proposed City of Tucker? Join Us December 2nd!

    Friends and neighbors across the Tucker community are abuzz with questions about the proposed City of Tucker! Join us on Monday, December 2nd at 7:00 p.m. at Northeast Baptist Church, 4046 Chamblee-Tucker Road for another in a series of community dialogues aimed at ensuring ALL Tucker residents have a voice in decisions that will forever impact the place we call home.

    The truth is there IS legislative support at the State Capitol and significant strength in the viability of Tucker as a city, given our 120-year history and valuable assets such as Henderson Park, Northlake, a thriving Main Street, and close-knit neighborhoods. Your voice deserves to be heard in preserving the community you love.

    The community meeting will include an overview of the proposed cityhood initiative, followed by community dialogue in a question and answer format. For more information about this meeting and the proposed City of Tucker, visit

  2. TracyW says:

    I think the only reason the board voted down the DH cluster is that they are afraid it will WORK, without the Friends and Family of the DCSS controlling it.

    Follow the money…

  3. John says:

    Amen, TracyW!

  4. Procopius from Constantinople says:

    I worry that the Justice Department may step in. Rest assured they will be invited because this type of legislation has a certain odor of “Disfranchisement”.

  5. Ned says:

    I don’t know if “disenfranchisement” is the correct word, but there is certainly something unfair in saying Dunwoody can have its own school system but Stone Mountain can not, and to the extent the racial make-up of new cities and pre-existing cities differs that “tailoring” could be problematic.

  6. Good point Ned. I’m not sure I understand why this bill only targets new cities and those that have ‘contiguous’ borders. Why not open it up for all cities? Or townships even – once there was a bill introduced to allow the formation of townships. I think it could be a good idea to set a minimum size for a new district – something that is found to be optimal use of a school budget – say 3000-5000?

  7. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Dunwoody did a feasibility study to find out if they could sustain their own school system. Let’s not conflate the different issues.

    New cities and school districts aren’t about race. South DeKalb is looking to form their own city, Stonecrest.

    House Referendum 486 would allow any city formed since 2005 to form a school system. It also allows for the formulation of school systems across county lines as long as the areas are contiguous and it contains a city formed since 2005.

    Why 2005? Outside the metro Atlanta area we still have many small county school districts. Those county school districts could lose most of their students if a city started its own school district. This is to assure the rural school districts that they will not be affected.

  8. Stan Jester says:

    Wanting a good education for your children spans the races and socioeconomic demographics.

    Smaller School Districts Do Better
    DeKalb has 70% Free or Reduced Lunch. Gainsville (78% F/R Lunch) and Valdosta (76% F/R Lunch) are more economically challenged, have much smaller districts and get better CRCT Scores.

  9. Thanks DIO. That’s interesting. I do know they have to ensure that this doesn’t open up the ability to start wee districts all over the state. There are already MANY districts with 1,000 or fewer students. Most of the cities around Atlanta would create districts with at the very least, 3,000 students.

  10. hopespringseternal says:

    @DIO — how do you figure that because Stonecrest wants to start a city that means “South DeKalb” wants to start a new city? Are you equating the two?

  11. Actually, I think I did hear something about a city of South DeKalb… anyone?

    There’s this from the AJC:

    Meeting Thursday focuses on potential new cities in south DeKalb

    (Sept 24)

    By April Hunt

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    The prospect of new cities in south DeKalb County will be the focus of a meeting Thursday .

    DeKalb’s legislative delegation has filed placeholder bills for at least five possible cities in all corners of the county.

    The session will focus on the possibility of a City of Prosperity, to cover the bulk of east-south DeKalb and a city of Stonecrest, to run south from Lithonia and include Stonecrest Mall. Other potential cities, some with overlapping boundaries, include Briarcliff/Druid Hills, Lakeside, LaVista Hills and Tucker.

  12. Oh! Here it is – It’s a City of DeKalb —

    October 17, 2013:

    Cityhood for DeKalb County under study

    By April Hunt

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    The cityhood movement in metro Atlanta could get much bigger now that a state Senate committee is looking at whether all of unincorporated DeKalb should become a city – even if the likelihood of what would be the region’s largest city is a long shot at best.

    Talk of turning DeKalb into Georgia’s newest city already has state and local officials worrying that the idea is far too simple to address the complex issue of funding local government.

    “It makes sense to me to look at what the future of DeKalb County should be, what services they should focus on,” said state Sen. Fran Millar, the sole Republican on the county’s senate delegation, which acts as the study committee. “Those are the issues DeKalb County ought to be looking at, instead of whether to be a city.”

    The last time the idea of a city of DeKalb was floated, in 2006, a University of Georgia study concluded a city would capture $30 million in fees from utilitiesthat the county could not collect.

    That kind of cash could be tempting as county officials have begun preparing the 2013 budget. With the creation of Brookhaven and likely annexation of a large area into Chamblee, DeKalb expects to lose up to $40 million in fees and taxes for its operations next year.

    The study committee was the brainchild of state Sen. Gloria Butler, to address those kinds of hits. Butler declined to submit a companion bill to a House proposal by Rep. Billy Mitchell last year for a city of DeKalb, saying she needed more information. The committee is designed to get the facts behind the theories, she said.

    “I want us to look at whether a city of DeKalb is better or if there is another way to run DeKalb County,” Butler said.


  13. hopespringseternal says:

    Yes. There have been efforts by state legislators to start ‘something’, but I hear no citizen talk of that with the sole exception of Stonecrest. To my knowledge Stonecrest is the only so-called South DeKalb cityhood effort which has done the homework and backed the concept — with support and dollars for a study. Forgive me, but I don’t for one second count a legislator’s half-baked attempt at a cityhood effort, not organically grown like the others, as “South DeKalb’s” effort. We should remember that Stonecrest is in no way to be perceived as a South DeKalb effort. It is Stonecrest’s effort. In other words, there’s a lot more to South DeKalb than one area like Stonecrest.

  14. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Not everyone in South DeKalb wants to start a city just like not everyone in Brookhaven wanted to start a city. Only 55% of the Brookhaven voters voted for it. So, when I say “South DeKalb is looking to form their own city, Stonecrest”, I’m paraphrasing their website which says “The Stonecrest City Alliance is a grassroots group of South DeKalb neighbors working to understand how a new city may benefit the citizens and businesses of our community.”

  15. another comment says:

    Their will be nothing from the Justice Department. Because most of the most Liberal areas of the country are made up of small town/city one high school wide school districts. Which is why those States never had any bussing issues. They always had local control and never had any central office power plays.

  16. Ned says:

    Consider this scenario: residents of the Brockett Road/Rays Road area care no less for their children’s education than do residents of Dunwoody, Druid Hills, or Stonecrest. But that area is squeezed between Clarkston and Stone Mountain, two cities of long standing, and thus far more likely to be annexed into one of those cities than to form a new city. I don’t see it as “conflating” anything to point out that this legislation is fundamentally unfair to those residents, not to mention those already in Clarkston & Stone Mountain, in not allowing them the same educational choice as other DeKalb residents. And thinking no one would put a racial spin on that unfairness, however unjustified, is politically naive.

  17. Ned says:

    Consider this scenario: parents in the Brockett Road/Rays Road area care just as much about their children’s education as do parents in Dunwoody, Druid Hills, or Stonecrest. But the Brockett/Rays area is between Clarkston & Stone Mountain, two cities of long standing, and thus more likely to be annexed into one of those cities than to form a new city. Under the proposed legislation these residents, not to mention those of Clarkston & Stone Mountain, would have less right to form their own school district than other DeKalb residents. I don’t think it is “conflating” anything to consider that unfair, and it’s politically naive not to think someone could put a racial spin that, justified or not.

    Apologies for any double-postiong. For some reason my first attempt to post this hasn’t shown up.

  18. @Ned — for some reason, your comments were in the spam folder. We’ll try to dig up why and get it fixed.

  19. September says:

    I like the idea of allowing cities to form their own school systems. Rather than an arbitrary date of allowing cities formed after 2005 to form their own schools, it would be better to set a lower limit to the number of students needed to form an independent school district. Setting a minimum number of students needed to divide a school system avoids the problem of smaller counties trying to divide already small systems.

    The fact of the matter is that the state could write a law that would allow DeKalb to be divided into smaller districts without forming cities first. They just need to set population thresholds for this option. For example, allow a school system with 50,000 or more students to divide into smaller systems of no fewer than 10,000 students. I don’t know what the optimal number of students would be. School taxes could still be collected by the County and then divided on a per pupil basis. We already do something similar with our SPLOST money. Affluent areas would still end up paying more, but low income areas would still benefit from the overall tax base in DeKalb. Our less affluent areas might do very well under such a system. Not only would they have local control of their schools with reasonable funding, they would still qualify for Federal funding (Title I).

  20. gchidi says:

    The way this legislation reads, any city contiguous to one of the new cities would be eligible to start its own school system. Given the annexation plans of Clarkston and Stone Mountain — and potentially Avondale Estates and even Lithonia — all of these cities would be able to form school systems along with the new cities, because they will be contiguous.

    Ned, you and I need to talk. Because I live in Pine Lake, also between Stone Mountain and Clarkston. And I’m trying to figure out what our play might be here.

  21. another comment says:

    @September, your number may prove to be too large. What works is a one high school large districts with its feeder schools. Nancy Jester has information that the ideal size of a district is 2500-2900 students.

    I grew up in upstate NY, almost all of the districts are one high school large with feeder schools. My district had three smaller towns in it. The district next door had a village and town. Then these two districts share a real Vo-tech school. My cousins went to another small district an hour or so away from us. Two of them have been legally blind since birth. They were sent to a boarding school the New York School for the Blind, for K-8. It was probably the best thing for them. My one cousin who is blind works as a Customer service rep for AT&T, you would never know it. She has raised two children. Now she is also raising three grandchildren. She couldn’t do all of this if she did not have the specialized training from the blind boarding school. Her oldest son is a Catholic Priest.

    In New York these small districts even have enough money to provide bussing to private schools that are withing their districts or if they drive through the district. We went to Catholic Elementary School and got to ride the Public Elementary bus in the morning, and then the Public Middle/High School Bus in the afternoon.

  22. howdy1942 says:

    One thing for sure – the Dekalb County School System is too large to be managed and governed effectively as a single unit in this day and time. By virtually any measure you choose, the DCSS has been in decline for at least 10 years, the DCSS is now on probation, and the current school board is divided 5 – 4. That is no way to run a school system.

    @September presents a good approach. While I understand where Representative Taylor is coming from, I think that his proposal is too narrow in scope and too narrow to be considered as a Constitutional Amendment. No Constitution Amendment should be so narrow as to limit the creation of new school districts and this Amendment needs to simply be repealed in its entirety. The Legislature could then craft a new law defining the existence, creation, consolidation, or modification of existing school districts based on today’s realities.

    How do other states approach the issue of changing school districts? My research doesn’t find any specific requirements, but I not found any that limit school districts to a specific number or forbid the creation of new districts. The Georgia Amendment is a product of the 1940s and much has changed in Georgia since that time. Dekalb County was no more than a rural County east of Atlanta.

    Let’s just simply repeal the existing Amendment.

  23. Word Wall says:

    There are so many irregularities, special cases, oddities and mysteries in the billion dollar budget, no wonder the palace nobles couldn’t carve out an eqitable pro-rated charter cluster. They have no idea where the money goes — so pro-rating a group of students and service dollars into a new mini-system was impossible. Then the duct tape and chewing gum would really have fallen off this fine edifice……

  24. @Word Wall — that is the revelation of the Druid Hills cluster proposal exactly. We are all now very keenly aware of the fact that although the school district collects a certain amount of money per child to educate them, they are in no way spending a good portion of that money directly educating those children. It is very clear.

  25. September says:

    @anothercomment. I, too, am the product of a small public school system. One high school, one middle school, and two elementary schools. I knew every student in my high school class by name. I have high school friends who attended Ivy League Colleges and other friends who went to work after graduation. There is no debate over the quality of education that you get when you have good local control of your school system. While I know students graduate from DeKalb schools and go on to attend highly competitive colleges and universities, we could be doing a better job of educating all of our students. It goes back to local control and how resources are allocated. By resources I mean teachers, textbooks, technology, etc. The numbers in my example were hypothetical. Chosen because people sometimes have trouble visualizing a highly effective school system that is as small as the ones that you and I attended.

  26. Word Wall says:

    Equitable. The per student allotment should be modular and easily assessed, but evidently it is very contentiously disputed ….

  27. another comment says:

    @ September thanks. Metro Atlantan’s need to understand, that School Districts simply don’t need large Administrative Staffs. Why are we paying School Supt. more than Govenors? Why are we paying them more than US Congressman and Senators. People may complain about the US department of Education Department, but then all of their employees must by law be paid less than Congress. Not these outragous amounts these huge district Supt. gets paid. The average pay of small one school district Supt. even in the NE is only in the $150-160K range. These Supt. have all the principals as direct reports, as well as the finance, the buildings, maintenance, busses, curriculium, they have staffs of maybe 10 people plus the custodians/maintenance staff and bus drivers. Their are huge savings in just the transportation budgets. Schools get built wisely. We had indoor swimming pools in middle school and high school. We did not have assistant principal after assitant principal. You also have stability in these small districts. Homeowners don’t have to fret that some central office moron, who doesn’t even live in the district is going to move the district line every other year, to justify their existance. Property values go up, because parents invest in the schools they know they will remain zoned to. That is why the Decatur, Marietta and other districts thrive

  28. Dunwoody Releases Feasibility Report for Independent School District

    In part ,the report found that projected revenues for an independent school district for 2012 would have been $78.7 million.

    …The City of Dunwoody recently released a feasibility report by the community group, Dunwoody Parents Concerned about Quality Education.

    In part, the report found that projected revenues for an independent school district for 2012 would have been $78.7 million. Costs for operation of a central office and services were projected to be $10.3 million.

    Click here to read the report.

    Most important nugget:

    On net, revenues for operations of an independent Dunwoody school district would exceed school and district operating costs by $30.7 million annually.

  29. More from the Dunwoody report:

    If the Dunwoody cluster of schools were managed under a separate and independent school district, some current sources of revenue would follow students and schools to the new Dunwoody Independent School District DISD). Other revenues would remain allocated to what we term the deconsolidated DeKalb County School District (DDCSD). The allocation of 2012 revenue to either the independent Dunwoody district or the deconsolidated DeKalb district depends on detailed and specific characteristics of the two student populations, supporting communities, and the experience and educational profile of the assigned teachers.

    … The net reduction in resources available to DeKalb after deconsolidation is $26.8 million. This is the equivalent of $293 per student per year.

  30. howdy1942 says:

    This goes to the heart of what I consider to be a huge strategic mistake on the part of the Dekalb County School Board when they denied the Druid Hills Charter Cluster. Had they simply approved that charter, my understanding is that the Dekalb County School System would have continued to collect the taxes from that area and return 97% to the DHCC. Without question, other clusters would have followed, but the DCSS would have continued to be in the loop. If Tucker, Briarcliff, and Lakeside do become cities and that Constitutional Amendment is changed, these cities as well as Dunwoody and Brookhaven will no doubt pursue their own independent school systems or some combination of them and these communities would collect and keep 100% of the taxes from those communities. DCSS would cease to have any input or any control whatsoever. The DCSS School Board and Thurmond need to face reality and understand that their days of absolute control of the entire DCSS as its exists today is is going to end.

  31. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Howdy1942. It’s worse than you think. Druid Hills Charter Cluster was only asking for 97% of the money allocated to their students. Roughly speaking, I don’t have the numbers in front of me, only 70% of the taxes collected from the Druid Hills area are allocated to the Druid Hills students. The administration said taking that 70% of their own taxes to educate their own students was too much of a drain on the rest of the system.

    The Dunwoody school district feasibility study showed that while the DeKalb School District collects $78 million in taxes from Dunwoody, the Dunwoody schools only need $47 million to operate.

    If Druid Hills forms their own city and independent school district, at that time they will take 100% of the taxes collected.

  32. midvaledad says:

    I was at the BOE meeting last night and the first speaker talked about the Druid Hills Charter Cluster Petition. They asked for $11,000,000 more than the district spends on the schools. $5,000,000 is for food, transportation and maintenance, but the other $6,000,000 is lost in the central office.

    $6,000,000 divided by $40,000,000 is 15%.

    The state formula for funding charter schools allots 3% for administrative overhead, but DeKalb County’s administrative overhead is 15%.

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