Open Letter regarding FY 15 budget

Reprinted from the Tucker Patch >>
Posted by Kirk Lunde , February 15, 2014 at 09:02 AM

Dear Superintendent Thurmond and Board of Education,

I am writing to share my recommendations for developing the DeKalb County School District’s budget for FY 2015.

I recommend building the budget around the classrooms. The Druid Hills Charter Cluster showed how to do this. The DHCC found that using this “classroom-based” method allowed for smaller class sizes. A “classroom-based” budget would allow for planning to ensure there are enough teachers, counselors, social workers, interpreters, trailers, and desks at each school on the first day of school.

In order to create a “classroom-based” budget the BOE needs to pass a Class Size Exemption Resolution before the budget is developed. It is impossible to build a budget without knowing how many teachers, counselors, social workers, interpreters, trailers, and desks are needed at each school. The State BOE is scheduled to vote on providing waivers to school districts at their Feb. 20, meeting. I recommend the DeKalb BOE pass a Class Size Exemption Resolution during their March 3, meeting.

I also recommend smaller class sizes for every category of instruction. If the BOE does not decrease class sizes from this year’s limits, it will be a dereliction of duty and tantamount to negligence.

Using the BOE approved class sizes, the Division of Curriculum and Instruction needs to determine the needs of each school before any money is allocated to the central administration. Student Support and Transportation are the next logical areas to propose budgets. Ideally, these areas would be fully funded regardless of cost. The DHCC proved this is not the process used for previous DeKalb County School District budgets.

Budget meetings are held each year to get public input. None of the public input is recorded or acted upon. For example, last June I questioned why the travel budget was $10,000 for a department with one full-time employee. I got no response or follow-up and the amount was still in the final version of the budget as posted on the DCSD website. I recommend that all public comments are recorded and posted in the meeting minutes for those meetings. Just reporting the names of the speakers does not reflect their concerns. (This is my recommendation for all BOE meetings, not just budget meetings.)

Also, there needs to be some sort of unifying document to aid in comparing the different versions of the budget. The detailed budget is 1850 pages, but the budget approved by the BOE is a one page document. How are those two things related? That is a basic question to which every taxpayer of DeKalb County should be able to find the answer. Other school districts post videos and documents explaining the budget process. Why can’t DCSD? I recommend providing a way for the public to track where every dollar is budgeted on all the different versions of the budget.

Another aspect of having a “classroom-based” budget is ensuring teachers are paid comparably to other teachers in the region. To that end, I recommend the district eliminate furlough days and resume contributions to the teachers’ retirement fund.

These are the things I believe need to be done to put in place a budget which will support the BOE’s commitment to focusing on teaching and learning. Fully fund the classrooms and schools and if any cuts need to be made, make them elsewhere.

Hopefully this, or a similar process, will be used and DeKalb County teachers and students will see tangible improvements during the next school year.

Thank you for your service.


-This blog represents only my opinions and not the views or positions of any other person or organization.

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16 Responses to Open Letter regarding FY 15 budget

  1. TracyW says:

    Well said.

  2. We agree Tracy – everything in this open letter is the simple truth. It’s not as hard to educate children as DeKalb has made it. We have administrators literally making up loads and loads of paperwork for teachers and principals to mine and turn in – only to never receive any usable results. Our administrative leaders have become burdens to the teachers and principals and have impeded their ability to do their jobs. We are hearing that counselors are now so bogged down in paperwork for the central office that they don’t have time to counsel students!

  3. Concerned DeKalb Mom says:

    Is there somewhere that a person could place their signature to support this letter to the Superintendent?

  4. Sylvia Richardson says:

    Since Dekalb is not contributing to teacher’s retirement fund, is the system paying Social Security for their employees instead? Isn’t this required by law?

  5. Word Wall says:

    The clarity and simplicity of the letter is in stark contrast to the secrecy and waste of the Puzzled Palace…so of course the suggestions are a total non-starter….you might as well ask them to fly to the moon!

  6. howdy1942 says:

    This is an excellent post and I also fully agree. Did you see that article in Sunday’s AJC where Mr. Thurmond said that he is really good at “listening”. I sincerely wish that were the case. The cry from the People has been overwhelming:

    Smaller class sizes
    Settle that TSA (Tax-Sheltered Annuity)lawsuit
    Reallocate dollars from administration to the classroom
    Truly listen to the public and ANSWER THEM!
    Cut the bloated administration 
    Order a full forensic audit and make it public
    Restore trust and treat all school districts fairly.
  7. Howdy — we made a minor correction in what you wrote. The lawsuit is about the TSA — Tax-Sheltered Annuity. Normally we do not make corrections or changes to individual comments. But, it is important to understand the difference between the TSA (Tax-Sheltered Annuity) which was to compensate teachers for leaving the Social Security system and TRS (Teachers Retirement System).

    By law, DeKalb County Schools must continue to make their assessed contribution to TRS. But, teachers will be unjustly penalized when they retire because, regardless of how long a retiring teacher may have worked elsewhere and paid into Social Security, when they retire from DCSS, they will be penalized at least 1/3 or more of their Social Security benefit (that also includes spousal benefits) through the federal Windfall Elimination Provision. Teachers who have never worked anywhere else besides DCSS will receive NO Social Security benefits unless they are eligible for spousal benefits (50% of what their spouse receives or will receive) — and those spousal benefits will be reduced by 1/3 or more.

    Because DeKalb County Schools stopped paying into the TSA (in order to balance the budget on the backs of teachers instead of significantly reducing the bloated and mostly unnecessary central office) many teachers will be retiring into poverty.

  8. Thurmond is good only at running his mouth — with a shtick that would play in vaudeville and a fake accent so thick you would swear he grew up indentured and indigent somewhere in the back of beyond.

  9. Formerdekalbteacher says:

    I am as angry as anyone about the way that the TSA was handled. I have only a couple of years’ worth coming, but I do believe that is money I am owed. And I do believe that the Windfall Elimination that prevents those of us who worked under Social Security (or have spouses who did) from receiving our full benefit is grossly unfair.

    That said, it’s a bit of overkill to say that our teachers will retire into poverty. A 30-year veteran with a bachelor’s degree will retire making $35K. With a Master’s, $41K
    A lot? NO. Fair? NO. What we were promised? NO. But not poverty.

  10. thedeal2 says:

    This post makes too much sense for DCSD to implement it. Maybe one of the city systems can use it when they are formed in a few years.

  11. Retired DeKalb teacher says:

    I hope Mikey reads the posts in case he mistakenly thinks he is doing a good job! The entire new board is simply following his lead and need to be replaced in May with elections.

  12. concerned citizen says:

    What’s so sad is that he seems to believe his own crap. DSW, what an apt description of this little turkey! I get amused sometimes watching him strut like the peacock he is! Listening to him “talk,” though, is pure torture. He is so ignorant and such a liar. Whoever wrote that mess praising him in Sunday’s paper is delusional.

  13. Dekalb parent says:

    Please consider running for a position on the Dekalb School Board. Your insight into a dire situation is spot on. We need your recommendations implemented NOW!

  14. Teachers matter says:

    They’ll never do any of these excellent suggestions. Why? They make too much sense and actually hold people (besides teachers) accountable.

  15. Teacher says:

    Brilliant! Mr. Thurmond, please listen!

  16. midvaledad says:

    @Concerned DeKalb Mom,

    I bet you could copy it into an email below your comments and send it to Thurmond and the BOE. Your comments would be important since it looks like they have already been sent the letter.

    Who knows? If enough people send it, maybe someone will read it.

Comments are closed.