Layering on top of our last post, A raise for teachers hides the truth about the extreme rise in administrative costs in DeKalb, we would like to dive a bit into some budget irregularities that one of our contributors has been able to organize into an easy-to-understand chart. Once again, we can see that despite the rhetoric, and the press releases, Michael Thurmond is just another superintendent who has presided over a long-term session of cuts to the classrooms and major increases in administrative jobs and costs. It’s simply the ‘same thing but different’. It matters not; Cheryl Atkinson, Ramona Tyson, Crawford Lewis and now Michael Thurmond have not reduced their administrative costs one iota and have in fact, increased them exponentially, all while cutting supplies to the classroom, contributions to teachers’ pensions and increasing teachers’ student load and demands.
In the interest of showing all the relevant information regarding how DeKalb County Schools spent money in fiscal year 2014, a basic analysis was done using the GaDOE “School System Financial Reports.” These reports are compiled from the form DE46 which each school system submits after they “close the books” on a fiscal year. The School System Financial Report includes seven categories of expenditure; Instruction, Pupil Services, Staff Services, General Administration, School Administration, Transportation, and Maintenance & Operations. These, as well as Total Expenditures, are reported both as a total amount and on a per FTE (student) amount.
In the table below the Budgeted amounts were found by adding any mid-year adjustments to the approved budget. The Actual amounts were taken from the GaDOE School System Financial Reports.
When you add the deficits seen in Instruction and Pupil Services, you find a total of $22,393,428 was budgeted, but not spent, on student instruction and activities designed to support student instruction.
This table also shows DeKalb County Schools spent more than double the budgeted amount for General Administration. This is defined by the GaBOE, in part, as “activities performed by the superintendent, administrative support personnel, and deputy, associate, or assistant superintendent having overall administrative responsibility.” In other words, the central office.
This was Superintendent Thurmond’s budget. His staff spent the money. The BOE provided NO oversight because when they asked relevant questions, the staff wouldn’t answer them. One such question was regarding the more than $2 million requested for “Additional School Based Salary and Benefits” requested in the mid year budget adjustment. Both Dr. Bell and Dr. Smith refused to say what that money was for. The question now is, why was that money requested when more than $13 million was not spent on instruction?
This is being shared to help the BOE understand why they need to step up their oversight of the budget. One Board member has stated, repeatedly, her belief that questioning the staff is not their role and the BOE needs to “let them do their jobs.”
Fiscal year 2014 showed what happens when there continues to be NO oversight of how DeKalb County Schools spends money. Observers of DeKalb Schools know fiscal year 2015 is being managed in exactly the same way.
Superintendent Thurmond did not put as much money into the classrooms as he promised. The per FTE amount spent on instruction in fiscal year 2014 was just $53 more than the per FTE amount spent during fiscal year 20003. The BOE needs to hold him accountable.
Wake up and smell the coffee! We simply must hire an experienced, education-based, classroom-focused superintendent to lead us into the light of a quality classroom in every space. This is our one last chance. The status quo must end and the spending balance must tip heavily into the classroom, while deeply cutting costs associated with administrative jobs. The children are counting on us. The budget holds the key.
Please contact your BOE representative and politely ask them to provide an increased level budget oversight.