DOE: Systems that spent federal stimulus may furlough

Here is the PAGE summary of school chief John Barge’s and DOE Deputy Superintendent of Finance Scott Austensen’s presentation Tuesday to the House and Senate joint appropriations hearings on the 2011 Supplemental Budget and the FY 2012 Budget. Barge’s comments are very similar to what he told the media Friday.

This summary is from Margaret Ciccarelli of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators:

Barge referenced two substantive priorities:

*   Improving High School Math Curriculum: Barge said that Georgia’s math standards are strong, but that delivery methods are problematic. He wants to improve the curriculum without losing rigor.

*   Examining Graduation Rules and the Single Diploma: the Superintendent indicated that he hopes to maintain a single rigorous diploma but expand multiple pathways to achieve it.

Scott Austenson, Deputy Superintendent of Finance at DOE, detailed specific education budget items for legislators. He said that former Governor Perdue asked the department to prepare three different budget contingency plans; Austenson indicated that the 4% reduction scenario will likely be applied to state education spending in the 2011 Supplemental Budget. Austenson mentioned that a larger cut to education funding may be necessary in the 2012 Budget.

Austenson highlighted some specifics in the 2011 Supplemental Budget, including a planned elimination of funding for Charter School Planning Grants and elimination of a contract funding the National Science Center. There was better news for beginning math and science teachers with five or fewer years of experience—the proposed version of the budget would award them a pay increase, making good on the legislature’s passage of HB 280 in 2009. For details, view the legislation.

Access the FY 2012 Budget (ed info begins on pg 174).

Austenson described proposed items in the 2012 Budget and answered legislators’ questions. Highlights included a planned cut of 10% to the Governor’s Honors Program (which DOE hopes will be recouped by charitable giving), a 9.8% reduction to the state’s portion of school nutrition funding, and a 10% reduction to Georgia’s school nurse program. Austenson reiterated to legislators that the budget contained no funding for the restoration of 1st and 2nd grade CRCT administration.

When asked by a House member, Austenson described the $321 million Georgia received last September under the federal Education Jobs and Recovery Act. The federal funds were intended to prevent layoffs but arrived too late to prevent reductions in force in Georgia’s school systems. Local systems were advised to hold onto the money to prevent layoffs and furloughs during the 2011-2012 school year (when federal dollars expire, resulting in what many describe as a “funding cliff” in education). However, some systems throughout the state have already spent the federal funds, making personnel cuts like furloughs likely in those systems during 2011-2012.

Both the Supplemental 2011 Budget and the FY 2012 Budget will undergo many changes as they move through the legislature, and PAGE will continue to participate in and report on this process. A major item sure to provoke discussion is Governor Deal’s partial restoration of major austerity reductions to the Quality Basic Education funding formula.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

25 comments Add your comment


January 20th, 2011
9:48 am

Is this the money that some Atlanta systems used to reinstate lost salary this year?


January 20th, 2011
10:00 am

So… does this mean that the CRCT is finally gone for 1st and 2nd graders??? Please say yes!!!

What's best for kids?

January 20th, 2011
10:31 am

When are the local boards and superintendents going to wake up and start eliminating the ridiculous central office staffs? The slad years are over. Time to tighten the belt everywhere~not just in the classrooms.

What's best for kids?

January 20th, 2011
10:31 am


January 20th, 2011
10:43 am

So Deal’s commitment to eliminate teacher furloughs was intended to be accomplished by having school boards spend in 2011-2012 the federal stimulus money they were presumed to have saved from 2010? Is there ANY Georgia school district that has the 2010 money set aside for this purpose?

North Fulton Parent

January 20th, 2011
10:57 am

Maureen quotes Dr. Barge: “Improving High School Math Curriculum: Barge said that Georgia’s math standards are strong, but that delivery methods are problematic. He wants to improve the curriculum without losing rigor.”
I am hoping that you can expound upon this when you learn more from the DOE. Perhaps systems who choose charter system status and are granted that status could elect to revert to a traditional mathematics pathway for middle school & high school. In return, the charter system would promise to improve math scores for those students on a mutually chosen standardized test.
The integration of math in high school is a disaster. Just as last year’s sophomores (today’s juniors) showed massive failure on the Math II EOCT (40% failure rate statewide as reported by this paper), today’s sophomores are already showing signs of struggling. At our area high schools, the best math teachers are being reorganized to teach failing sophomores before too much of the year passes. And we are in top performing schools. What is happening in other parts of the state?
Just to be clear, this is not just because the standards are more rigorous. It is also because:
1. The new mathematics program prior to starting Algebra I left kids with huge gaps both in content and in basic math facts. The reorganization of the standards left kids with chunks of content missing and all of that conceptual student driven learning (three weeks of my son’s elementary school math classes looked like an origami workshop!) was so time consuming there was no time left for memorization or reinforcement of basic math facts.
2. Because we are the only state left doing this nonsense and we aren’t one of the states that drives textbook content (Texas, California, Massachusetts), we are left to choose from what’s already on the market. And the integrated textbooks are garbage!!
I am hoping that Dr. Barge lives up to one of his campaign promises and allows counties to make changes to the math. He could retain the rigor of the standards, but allow counties the option of reorganizing them in a traditional sequence allowing us to purchase better materials. It will be up to us to work back in the math fact reinforcement that we know kids need.

Maureen Downey

January 20th, 2011
11:13 am

@lala, Just checked. DOE says the tests are gone for this year.

What's best for kids?

January 20th, 2011
11:13 am

N. Fulton parent, don’t hold your breath.


January 20th, 2011
11:41 am

State DOE/Legislature: Why don’t you have any more tourniquets left for next year? Why didn’t you save one?
Systems: We’ve been bleeding to death for the last 7 years. We used them all up when you cut off our arms and legs.
State DOE/Legislature: Well, don’t blame us that you don’t have any left!
Systems (mumbling under breath): That is exactly who we blame!


January 20th, 2011
12:07 pm

So if the curriculum is strong but the delivery is the problem, how/why a change in the curriculum help – other than watering it down? What is the nature/reason for the delivery problem? Shouldn’t we be addressing that problem instead of keep changing the curriculum?

another comment

January 20th, 2011
2:12 pm

I guess Barge is going to turn into another politican who lied. He ran on a platform to get rid of Math 123 and to get rid of the single diploma. We are already seeing backtracking. He and the guy who ran against Holli Cash are the only Republican’s that I could stomach to vote for. At least the one who replaced Holli Cash did a decent job at his first school board meeting. But anyone could do better than Holli Cash, aka Fred’s Cheerleader.

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January 20th, 2011
4:30 pm

I’ve heard of at least a few systems that have already spent the federal money. Luckily my system hung onto it, but it will ultimately be a bandaid applied to a severed limb. With the 4% reduction in this fiscal year and what looks like probably another 10% to cut next fiscal year, we’re doomed in most systems to furlough days unless local tax bases come up some. Even with the federal money, look at systems like Cobb that are already projecting tens of millions in shortfall. I have to say, I’m not surprised and am disgusted with the double speak from the gold dome. I knew when Deal said he would end furloughs that there was something he wasn’t telling us!!

catlady: to your 11:41- ROFL

As to Barge on the math curriculum: delivery is a problem when the curriculum is bad. Every math teacher I know, from new to veteran, says the curriculum is short on needed practice of basic math skills and LONG on unteachable content. It’s a cumbersome, unrealistic curriculum. Of course delivery is a problem-DUH!! I had some high hopes for Barge, but I’m afraid he drank from the tainted water cooler Kathy Cox left in her office.


January 20th, 2011
4:54 pm

another comment

January 20th, 2011
2:12 pm
I guess Barge is going to turn into another politician who lied. He ran on a platform to get rid of Math 123 and to get rid of the single diploma. We are already seeing backtracking. He and the guy who ran against Holli Cash are the only Republican’s that I could stomach to vote for. At least the one who replaced Holli Cash did a decent job at his first school board meeting. But anyone could do better than Holli Cash, aka Fred’s Cheerleader

The problem is that anything Dr. Barge wants to do must pass the State BOE. They are all Sonny appointees and voted to put this curriculum in in the first place. It will take three or four years to get a majority together that is appointed by Deal. In the meantime he must compromise with the current board and this move sounds like a compromise solution.

Dr. Barge also said on the campaign trail that he would like to do all of his changes immediately but it is like driving a huge ship and turning that ship will take time.

No Teacher Left Behind

January 20th, 2011
5:26 pm

I doubt Fulton County will cease furloughs, and I doubt they saved any stimulus money at all.

North Fulton Parent

January 20th, 2011
6:03 pm

With regard to math it looks like Christmas came really early. I guess dreams really do come true:

State school superintendent offers new math option

State Superintendent John Barge, responding to the ire of parents and the governors’ concerns about the graduation rate, introduced a plan Thursday to allow local school districts to choose how they will teach math giving students the same rigor, but different approaches to learning concepts.

The plan allows districts to teach math in the traditional way and do away with the current integrated Math I, Math II and Math III courses, accelerated classes which have been criticized for being too fast-paced resulting in the failure of about 80,000 students statewide on final exams in math last May.

Or districts can choose to offer both traditional and integrated math consecutively. They’d also have the option of continuing as is with the challenging integrated approach.

Students now in grades 9-12 would still be required to take integrated math through graduation. The integrated path, introduced under the leadership of former Superintendent Kathy Cox, was designed to expose students to advanced content sooner than under the old model so that they will be able to compete with their peers nationwide for college entry.

“We have seen through practice that some students are having trouble with an integrated delivery system,” said Barge. “Some of them don’t feel like they have the time that they need to truly master the concepts before they move on to another one.”

As a result students are falling behind and failing.

“What we are seeing in the field is far too many students who are in 10th and 11th grade that are already off track for graduation because they fail to pass Math I and Math II,” Barge said.

Barge also asked that math support course that gives struggling 10th and 11th graders help in passing Math I and Math II plus a credit toward graduation be extended to provide a safety net for 9th graders as well. The state board will vote on the re-initiation of that rule in March.


January 20th, 2011
6:15 pm

I knew Deal was just spouting garbage when he said no more furloughs. Come on…does he really think teachers are going to have that one pulled over on us then blame the systems? I’d be surprised if there’s any in this state that can make it through next year without furloughs.


January 20th, 2011
7:04 pm

catlady @11:41 a.m.: Can’t top that! :-D


January 20th, 2011
8:05 pm

Can anyone explain how the money coming for our Race to the Top “victory” will be spent? Exactly how will this money help us in Georgia or make up for the millions that have been cut and continue to be cut from education.
Explain to me again why teachers should buy into any new evaluation system / merit pay / pay-for-performance when the state can’t pay teachers now?
Can anyone answer these questions?


January 20th, 2011
8:30 pm

The loss of property tax income is still not factored into the equation. How can this money be compensated for without raising taxes?
There is more to the picture than state funding, especially after 8 years of “austerity”. Start the discusion on long term fixes for the lack of funding. This is not a 2011 or 2012 problem; it is a forever probleem unless addressed.

Ros Dalton

January 20th, 2011
8:46 pm


Fulton saved $12m of the $16m we got last year, but when faced with an initial estimate of an $80m budget shortfall $12m sounds like scraps. My understanding is that a lot of the counties were warned to save that money, but I don’t know how many did or how successful it will be in defraying the ongoing loss of tax revenue.

Ros Dalton

January 20th, 2011
8:56 pm


That RttT money will initially be spent to create a commission to evaluate how to spend that money, a commission funded out of that money and doubtless chock full of nephews, cousins, and assorted other cronies like all the other 100k+ education jobs in the state. They will eventually come up with a complex, 400 page long recommendation regarding which of their buddies books should be purchased, how many of their uncles should hired to remove outdated equipment from schools, and how much gas they should get to put in their mistresses’ cars every week. The best part is, when that RttT money runs out none of them will lose their jobs, the bill will just slide neatly over into the rest of the ongoing waste and graft inherent in the system.

Politics: the art of convincing a voting majority that you deserve their money more than they do…

bootney farnsworth

January 20th, 2011
9:22 pm

I’m all for the furloughs.

porovided it’s middle management and beauracrats who get furloughed.


January 20th, 2011
9:27 pm

Ros- good point about the federal money. In most districts, it will only be a small percentage of the total budget deficit at current funding levels. With the governor already promising more cuts, that gap will only widen. And the governor has already set it up so he can blame it all on local mismanagement. Also true that the RttT money will create jobs that will be shifted once it runs out. And it will run out quickly. We were struggling enough in education before it became the political issue du jour. It just gets worse with time, doesn’t it?


January 21st, 2011
12:26 pm

I contacted a state education organization regarding the facts on this and was told that the counties are NOT accountable to the state for any of the federal stimulus monies. “Local systems were advised to hold onto the money to prevent layoffs and furloughs during the 2011-2012 school year…” Well guess what? They did whatever they wanted with the money and it is for the most part gone. Try giving a 5 year a dollar for candy and tell them to hold on to it for a week before they spend it. I am all in favor of smaller government, but without accountability the inmates are going to continue to run the asylum.