Fewer teachers, school days in Cobb. When do cuts threaten quality?

There seems to be little good news on the school budget front in Cobb where parents are looking at fewer days and teachers as the system grapples with fallen real estate taxes and reduced state funding.

Here would be my concerns if I were a Cobb parent: When do these cuts erode quality? Cobb has had a jewel of a school system. Its public schools have long been a enticement for middle-class families to settle in the county. I know friends who accepted an hour commute in exchange for Cobb County schools.

Can quality survive this level of cuts?

According to the AJC:

The board voted 6-1 for an $842 million general fund budget for the 2012-13 school year. That’s down $10 million from the current year’s spending, but officials still didn’t cut enough to match revenues. Superintendent Michael Hinojosa proposed plugging a $21 million deficit with reserves.

If the tentative budget becomes final, there will be about 400 fewer instructional personnel, 350 of them teachers, and maximum class sizes will rise by two students across all grades. The school year will be missing five days when teachers will be furloughed. And the teachers who remain will have less help, as paraprofessionals see their hours cut nearly in half. Finally, step increases for teachers will be cut in half.

“It’s been a long journey, a very unpleasant journey for all of us,” Hinojosa said.

The budget can still change. It doesn’t become final until a May 17 scheduled vote. Board member David Banks cast the dissenting vote. He wants officials to cut less and use more reserves.

Some of his colleagues wanted to pull back from other cuts, expressing concern, for instance, with the five furlough days.

But they were also looking down the road to an even bleaker 2013-14 school year. Revenues aren’t expected to grow by then, yet costs for things such as medical care are expected to continue rising. So the school system will have to pull yet more money out of reserves to maintain spending levels – money it doesn’t have.

From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

39 comments Add your comment

BT

April 27th, 2012
10:39 am

Forget doing more with less. We have moved to doing less with less and there is nothing that came be done due to funding shortfalls related to the economy. And just think 45% approve of Obama…scary!!

carlosgvv

April 27th, 2012
10:44 am

I’ve had a number of corporate jobs where people were laid off, overtime was done away with, my salary was cut and more work was piled on. Needless to say, it was made crystal clear that if my job performance suffered in any way, I would be out the door. I wonder if these teachers will get the same message?

jj

April 27th, 2012
10:47 am

Georgia has no respect for education, and they prove it on an annual basis. I would have no problem paying a little more in taxes to fix this mess. Many schools will now have as many special ed and special services “teachers” as actual curriculum teachers. The utopia of everyone being a “C” student so no one is offended is upon us.
Thank God my kids are out and employeed, but I pitty their childred.

Being Censored by @Maureen

April 27th, 2012
10:53 am

@Maureen, let me just say that quality is already compromised. I don’t think we can get much worse with our achievement and graduation rates. Seriously, if you looked at what I have seen in terms of the wasteful spending by school districts, you would see how quickly funds could be reallocated to where they should be. Local monopolies mean huge redundancies in central office costs! The amount of $ our school districts spend on general admin is nauseating! Maybe if we spent less on waste and more on teachers and program, we might see some improvements.

Money isn’t the problem – our schools get plenty of money. But the system is irretrievably broken and needs to be reinvented.

cris

April 27th, 2012
11:00 am

unfortunately, in most school systems, the single largest expense is teacher pay – it is the easiest, albeit most painful, way to reduce budgets. As far as blaming specific political parties, I’m quite sure there is enough to go ALL THE WAY around – it just hit school systems later than the general public (I remember starting the 2009-2010 school year with a regular budget, pay increase and no furloughs – within the next 3 years that went to hell in a handbasket fairly quickly). I agree with most that some of the administrative and central office positions really must go – if you don’t have face time with students, you’re on the block. But do we really expect the people who make those decisions to cut themselves? Don’t think so………

Ron F.

April 27th, 2012
11:01 am

The cuts can happen, but will they really make the best choices of what and who to cut? I seriously doubt it. It’s easier to shorten the year and furlough employees than it is to make the tough call to do away with the jobs that really need to be cut. Look also at the article about Dekalb. They spent better than 110k to have someone come in and tell them which jobs were unnecessary. 300 at the county level, and how much do you want to bet they save over half of them?

Thomas

April 27th, 2012
11:10 am

The collapse of Real Estate in Metro Atlanta now is worst in nation with prices back to 16 year ago levels .The blight of sub prime over extension to poor credit risk, abandoned properties and freefall of values will now continue to devastate Metro Atlanta counties well into 2013 and 2014 budget years .School Boards that refuse to set up realistic budgets and refuse to fire cronies will continue to see flight from their counties. Some problem counties include Gwinnett down by 600 teachers , Cobb who knows ? Dekalb — refused to fire redundant 102 Vps recommended by $175,000 consultant study despite being overpopulated to comparable county systems, Rockdale 70 teachers , Clayton 15mm shortfall outsourcing sport programs !, Fayette voting to close several schools , Fulton closed 7 out of recommend 15 ..Fulton has not published status of terminations
Newton county shrinking real estate has decimated tax base with open revolt of tax assessments,(I reside in this county and have seen property values drop by 60% with taxation still kept at about 25% above market.

Common problems: all shrinking sytems with flight to private schools . redundant populations of administrations, extra support people and too few students.

Serious review of personnel should be conducted and reported by AJC to head off this budget crisis covering the bulk of Metro Atlanta public school systems.

HS Public Teacher

April 27th, 2012
11:17 am

“When do cuts threaten quality?”

Well, in Georgia public education this happened when the first republican Governor was elected. That’s the truth.

PS

April 27th, 2012
11:22 am

@BT – I’m no Obama apologist (I likely will not be voting for him in November), but you can hardly heap the educational mess on him. It all seems to flow back to this insipid NCLB law that was signed into law by our dear friend W.

HS Public Teacher

April 27th, 2012
11:48 am

@PS – You are so very correct. Too many in Georgia rush to point the finger at Obama simply because he is who he is without even thinking at all. Sad.

sad cobb teacher

April 27th, 2012
11:52 am

@ carlosgv – “I wonder if these teachers will get the same message?”

Really? You have no clue if you have to ask. This is the third year in a row of this, and for the most part the “chaff has been separated from the wheat” already, so to speak. The slackers have had a fire lit under their backsides with PDPs and what not. What’s being missed is that good teachers – teachers with degrees in subject areas like Spanish and science – are leaving, too, for the greener pastures elsewhere in the private sector.

What bothers me is what Maureen asked – at what point is the fundamental quality of the education irreparably compromised? You ever hear of the law of diminishing returns? If this were a factory, and the line were sped up to increase production, at a certain point the line is too fast for sufficiently high quality, and the product suffers. Cramming more and more kids into the classroom is like that sped up production line.

Everyone wants to bash the teachers – no one realizes that this is about the kids…their kids. I’m glad mine are done.

Dr. Proud Black Man

April 27th, 2012
12:09 pm

@carlosgvv

“I’ve had a number of corporate jobs where people were laid off, overtime was done away with, my salary was cut and more work was piled on. Needless to say, it was made crystal clear that if my job performance suffered in any way, I would be out the door. I wonder if these teachers will get the same message?”

The fast food business is rough isn’t it?

BT

April 27th, 2012
12:34 pm

@PS- NCLB has nothing to do with budget shortfalls, this is a national economic chaotic mess that no one wants to take ownership of and schools are caught in the middle. School funding comes primarily from property taxes that have been significantly reduced due to this economic mess!! I am sorry but this is Obama’s ecomony and it filters down for the federal level to the state. I am gald to know that you will not be voting for him by the way.

Frankie

April 27th, 2012
1:06 pm

I guess the economy and schools were not an issue before President Obama came in office. I guess the realestate market was his doing before he took office. I think he has the Munchowzen sydrome….he created all the issues before he took office, so that he could fix them all….
Common sense ain’t common is it…..BT….

God Bless the Teacher!

April 27th, 2012
1:11 pm

Decreases in revenue from property taxes…The USA bailed out the banks that helped drive the housing bubble to burst, thereby drastically lowering home values and increasing foreclosures, etc., etc., ad nauseum. Seems to me the banks should be helping fill the budget gap of schools, interest free. Add in the businesses who get untold tax benefits, but then want college-educated workers. Decrease or eliminate the tax benefit given to families for children (talk about government subsidies!)…after all they are the ones that wear on the infrastructure of schools. Eliminate state income taxes paid by classroom teachers. Get rid of school-sponsored athletics and let the community fund such endeavors (that’d get the GHSA machine off everyone’s back, and cut exorbitant coaching salaries). Use half the number of bulbs currently being used in light fixtures in school system facilities, allow corporate sponsors to name schools for annual contirbutions (no strings attached). Okay, many of the suggestions mentioned are crazy talk in most circles but why does the first option always have to be/include cutting teaching positions?

God Bless the Teacher!

April 27th, 2012
1:17 pm

P.S. Eliminating state taxes paid by teachers would help attract more “qualified” people into the profession, would help stimulate the economy (I know I’d be less hesitant to spend money), and definitely raise the morale of beat down educators statewide. Happy workers increase production, don’t you know? And why did legislators reinstate the tax holiday when, apparently, the state is taking in less? More of those don’t-tax-me-but-give-me-what-I-want morons (TP) who just want to get reelected.

GwinnettParentz

April 27th, 2012
1:36 pm

@PS. Ted Kennedy was the true champion of No Child Left Behind, though many on the left pretend not to remember it. He remained an advocate of NCLB throughout the remainder of his public life. President Bush signed NCLB into law with a beaming Ted Kennedy standing over him.

@Ron F. With your almost constant daily postings to this blog, when exactly do you teach those public school classes you so frequently cite? And where can others get public school jobs which allow so very much free time? Just curious.

BT

April 27th, 2012
1:36 pm

@ Frankie- you are exactly correct, there is NO COMMON SENSE any longer with any government regulations or programs regardless of the origination…that is the main problem. I also said that we have an economic mess that NO ONE wants to take ownership for and school funding and the economy continues to struggle. Again, school funding depends on taxation which is related to the economic mess we have.

Dr. Proud Black Man

April 27th, 2012
1:58 pm

@GwinnettParentz

“@PS. Ted Kennedy was the true champion of No Child Left Behind, though many on the left pretend not to remember it.”

And you are also pretending that no rethuglicans had anything to do with it? Why didn’t you mention John “crybaby” Boehner? Or Judd Gregg who were also coauthors of this abortion? Didn’t fit your right-wing propaganda huh?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Child_Left_Behind_Act

C Jae of EAV

April 27th, 2012
3:54 pm

@BT – I believe that many districts have reached the point of diminshing returns. Either a millage rate increase or raiding of surplus fund coffers is in order. Many districts have already cut intructional staff to the bone and simply cannot afford to cut instructional staff any deeper without having a profound impact on the quality of what’s happening in the classroom.

@chris – In GA, I would say the tide turner was Rep Chip Rodgers bill that forced county tax assessors to write the tax digest down to the real level of the market. Prior to this point, the avg tax digest was kept artifically high to prevent the bottom from falling out. Thus the real effect of lower real estate values are now being realized.

Once Again

April 27th, 2012
4:06 pm

When did we start caring about the quality of a government education? I thought all that mattered to parents was that everyone else’s kids got to go to school for “free:. At least that seems to constantly be the argument when dissolution of the govenrment system is proposed.

Beverly Fraud

April 27th, 2012
4:23 pm

“Cobb has had a jewel of a school system.”

Really? Which jewel is that? Cubic zirconia? I guess that’s better than the pyrite that is APS but still, “jewel”?

Beverly Fraud

April 27th, 2012
4:27 pm

Speaking of cubic zirconia, has Matt the Mouth Organ responded to a request for comment regarding the DOE’s new writing directives?

Or can they not figure out how to spin it quite yet?

Jewel of a School System

April 27th, 2012
4:54 pm

Laughable assessment of the school system. Where do you have any data to support this ludicrous statement?

Quality was compromised years ago. I tutored kids from this system who reported 42 kids in their science classes; kids were sitting on tables in the back of the room. The two kids additional is, I believe, figured as an average that includes classes with only five kids.

Jewel of a School System

April 27th, 2012
4:54 pm

Why are you moderating this email address? Because I disagree with you? Interesting.

Another comment

April 27th, 2012
5:53 pm

When I have tried to find my daughter’s teacher’s e-mail on the staffing list’s at her Cobb High School that has the IB program, more that 1/2 the teacher’s at the school are Special Ed or ESOL. There has got to be some point that we have to stop this insanity of inclusion. We have to stop creating all of the seperate Special Ed and ESOL positions all over the county in every school. We should not have School’s where 1/2 the teacher’s listed either teach Special Ed. or ESOL.

We need to stop running the Special Ed busses with one or two kids on them. I have sat behind in the carpool lane and seen 6 Special Ed busses with a total of 6-8 Special Ed Students. This is nuts!. We really need to take all of the kids with Special Ed needs and ESOL requirements and put them in seperate schools until they are capable of being mainstreamed without Aids. Otherwise parents need to pay. I know plenty of parents who pay $22K a year Shenek School, Atlanta Speech School, $16K To Sophia Academy or St. Francis.

Then they cut AP Classes for the Students who really have promise. They have also cut out Honor’s Classes. At my daughter’s High School in 11th Grade, you either have to take AP US Lit. or on Level US Lit. There is no Honors US. Lit. This is Nuts. Yet over 50% of the teachers are Special ED or ESOL.

I have a big problem with ESOL, my mother did not speak English when she started school, although she was born in the US. ten months after her mother arrived from Germany. No one offered her Generation of legal immigrants children any ESOL classes. She said they learned English with in a few weeks. Her parents also started speaking English when their children entered school. They also moved out of the city to the better suburbs, were they had no choice. Even though her parents where the maid and the gardner on an estate.

Another comment

April 27th, 2012
5:55 pm

Also notice Cobb is giving the 5 off days for the February Week that the “Balanced Calandar” group wanted as Vacation.

bootney farnsworth

April 27th, 2012
5:55 pm

when does it hurt quality?

we passed that point when CRCT was inflicted upon us.

but since when does quality matter?

Brandy

April 27th, 2012
5:58 pm

As a Cobb resident, teacher, and taxpayer, I know what needs to be done:

-raise the millage rate to the max
-go after banks/creditors of foreclosed upon homes to collect the taxes they owe on the empty properties (and force them to ask true market value for homes, hopefully driving property values up)
-go after the state, forcing them to pay the QBE funds they owe the district (and every other district)
-get rid of the senior exemption
-get the state to allow SPLOST funding initiatives for things other than building, technology, and PD–why not a $0.01 sales tax if it would reduce your kid’s class size?

Of course, as a realist, I know none of that will ever happen AND that suggesting these five things is akin to saying you worship the Devil to most in Cobb.

Ten to one says the cuts will be even worse for 2013-2014.

Atlanta Mom

April 27th, 2012
7:03 pm

If they put all 5 furlough days after the EOCT/CRCT/AP exams, there will be no decline in quality of education. Very little education goes on after those exams are give. And it’s not just my experiance. I’ve talked to many parents in many systems.

BC

April 27th, 2012
7:50 pm

@c jae of EVA- exactly correct, doing less with less!

A working Mother

April 27th, 2012
10:49 pm

Go ahead and swing a wide axe and cut them all.
We need to get rif of the dead wood in the schools and there is a lot of dead wood. We might need to have the position of AP but the thieves there in the schools of APS now need to be laid off and fired just to make way for honest ones.

CCT

April 27th, 2012
11:54 pm

Atlanta Mom – I don’t disagree with your statement about lack of learning after the tests – I wish the tests were the last week of school! However, we have a little glitch that will keep those furlough days from occurring after testing: remediation. One of the first things Cobb cut three years ago was summer remediation for 3rd, 5th, and 8th graders who failed the reading and/or math CRCT. Since the remediation is mandated (but not funded), it is now embedded during the school day in the last month of school.

TimeOut

April 28th, 2012
12:25 am

It’s never going to happen, but………………maybe one day, communities will declare that all non-instructional activities will take place during non-instructional time. This will include Model UN, standardized testing, field trips, career counseling, class meetings, ice cream reward parties, group therapy, individual therapy, school photos, competitive sports activities, academic contests, performances, community service activities, individual education plan sessions, conferences, student council elections, prom king and queen elections, homecoming king and queen elections, academic recognition ceremonies, awards ceremonies, fast food lunch deliveries from Mom, flower deliveries on Valentine’s Day, birthday deliveries from florists and others, signing ceremonies for athletes, newspaper article interviews, registration procedures, senior ring selection and ordering, and other, very important activities. So many of these activities are so important that they rate higher than the study of any and all academic subjects. After all, any teacher can simply reteach before/after school the next day, for those students who missed it the first time, any lesson in any field. However, given the amount of daily review for the chronically unengaged, most students should be able to catch up without the extra investment of precious after-school social time.

TimeOut

April 28th, 2012
12:29 am

I understand that many of these activities are also instructional. However, the overlapping of these activities with regular classes is tantamount to robbing Peter to pay Paul. Students miss Spanish, Math, and Physics to attend Model UN. This is not necessary. The College Board, and the managers of the Model UN could change their schedules. This may result in extra pay requirements for staff. Oh well……………there went that idea………..

A working Mother

April 28th, 2012
6:32 am

Brandy asks a good question “why not a $0.01 sales tax if it would reduce your kid’s class size?”
The simple answer is that because giving more money toAtlanta metro area school systems is like given a case of vodka to Lindsay Lohan.
Neither of them will do anything good with it.

Brandy

April 28th, 2012
1:23 pm

@A Working Mother, Do you live in Cobb? You do realize that Cobb residents have repeatedly approved SPLOSTs for ludicrous things–astroturf, anyone? Science labs at an East Cobb middle that doesn’t need all of them with current class sizes. Projects that constantly have to be “rescoped” due to being over budget or over schedule. I could go on and on.

While I would rather they just raise taxes, I know that SPLOST funding is an attractive option in a conservative county/district–it’s a tax increase, but it is a tax increase only on spending. There is opposition to currently proposed SPLOSTs, but that opposition is no greater than was witnessed in response to previous proposed (and passed) SPLOSTs. History says that if they present a SPLOST, it will pass. So, if we can use SPLOSTs to purchase bell and whistle technology that is (usually) not really needed, to build/remodel schools, and to put astroturf on school football fields, why not reinvent SPLOST? It appears to be a more attractive funding model to Cobb residents, so let us spend it on what we really need if we want our kids to get a decent education:

-lowering class sizes drastically by hiring (more like rehiring) more teachers–I would venture that doing so would be a MAJOR job creator for the area because many schools would need new classrooms (i.e. builders would be employed), materials would have to be purchased, and more people working equals more people having money to spend in the county, thus creating more jobs for local stores and restaurants. Oh, and drastically lowering class sizes raises student achievement. If Cobb’s achievement skyrocketed (without a cheating scandal), more middle and upper class families will want to move and stay here. More big businesses will want to relocate here, over other metro areas. That means more people with money to spend in the county and increased property values–increasing county and district revenues! Just like in business, sometimes you have to spend money to make money.

But, again, this will NEVER happen in Cobb, because to suggest it is akin to saying you worship the Devil.

Mark my words–next year’s cuts will be worse and if we don’t do anything different the economy will not improve.

ms. teacher

April 29th, 2012
11:59 am

I’m bummed to see CCSD having to suffer in this manner. I graduated from CCSD way back in 1999 and got an amazing education. This is my first year working in Cobb and my experience prior to this was in private schools. Let me just say that CCSD programs blow away private school education. I’m really proud of my school, love my students, and deeply respect my administration. And, I work in South Cobb which is often pigeon-holed as “bad,” “poor,” and “challenged.” Furthermore, many CCSD principals are working past the budget cuts and finding ways to keep teachers and programs afloat. I know my job next year will be funded through federal grant money. Several schools in CCSD have applied for the 21st Century Schools Grants which is a $1,000,000 grant to offer extra educational programming before/after/summer school. So, while the overall budget looks bleak, the local administrations are hustling to provide even better educational programming for students.

Northern School Parents

April 29th, 2012
4:34 pm

When was there EVER quality in education in Georgia?48, 47th, 49th, etc. out of 50 states in the United States of America?
Quality is relative. Some schools in Georgia are better than others but to say that the quality of education in Georgia has gone down is like saying that the quality of the gin and tonics has decreased on the Titanic.