To cope with budget, Cobb shortens school year, raises class size and cuts teachers. Welcome to the new normal

I can’t help but be depressed at the continual AJC news stories about larger classes, fewer teachers and shorter calendars.

This story is about Cobb, a school system that has been an academic pace setter and a major factor in the county’s appeal to middle-class families. When these top systems start slashing, I worry even more about the future of education in Georgia.

Here is the latest report from the AJC:

After failing to reach agreement last week, the Cobb County school board held a special meeting Monday for another go at next year’s budget, and approved one with $841.9 million in spending.

The 2012-13 budget, which kicks in July 1, cuts 350 teaching positions. That should increase average class sizes at all grade levels by two students per teacher.

The new budget pulls back from other cuts that were contained in the tentative budget approved in April.

Instead of five furlough days, for instance, teachers and all other employees will get three. That will mean a reduction in the school calendar, from 180 days to 177. Also, the hours for elementary school media paraprofessionals will not be cut as originally proposed. The budget was approved in a 4-3 vote, with board members Alison Bartlett, Tim Stultz and Kathleen Angelucci opposed.

The board also approved a new school calendar, with the furlough days on Dec. 21, Feb. 15 and May 30, 2013.

Other elements of the budget: a mid-year step increase for eligible employees, the use of $23 million in sales tax excess funds to lower the property tax millage rate and the use of $28.2 million in reserve funds to help close the deficit.

109 comments Add your comment

Beverly Fraud

May 21st, 2012
12:54 pm

I’m very concerned with how this will affect the central office personnel in Cobb, as I’m not sure any teacher can successfully teach children without central office personnel telling them exactly how to do it.

MannyT

May 21st, 2012
12:56 pm

If the county is short on funds, why are they lowering the millage rate? Lower property values have decreased taxes. Seems like some of this budget shrinkage is intentional.

Amazed

May 21st, 2012
12:58 pm

And why are we surprised? Our state legislature has cut funding to our education system at now a staggering 6 billion dollars over the last 10 years. In the name of what? Balancing a state budget? The 92% of Georgia’s children who attend our schools are the losers! Watch how our current state legislatures make perfumed speeches on how they support public education during an election year and then continue to slash the funding to our schools. My mother always said that show me the checkbook of anyone and I will tell what they really love.

William Casey

May 21st, 2012
12:58 pm

It is depressing. Education has never been a priority in Georgia and it shows. Now that the perception is that “money doesn’t matter,” stories such as this will be common place. In Georgia, the formula seems to be: cutting budget + abusing teachers = “improving” education. Oh, well. Let’s keep fighting the good fight!

Cutty

May 21st, 2012
1:04 pm

If you’re eliminating teacher positions, no one should get any kind of step increase.

Who are considered ‘eligible employees’?

Mary Elizabeth

May 21st, 2012
1:22 pm

Highlighting “Amazed’s” words at 12:58 pm:

“Our state legislature has cut funding to our education system at now a staggering 6 billion dollars over the last 10 years.”
==========================================

This cutting of the state’s educational budget occurred well before the Great Recession began in 2008. One must ask, “Why?” I have given my thoughts in this regard, previously. Rethink that – in the past decade – the state’s power structure has changed from Democratic to Republican. ALEC has had its influence, and its educational goals implemented, especially, within Republican led states.

What is this cutting of funding to public education doing to public education, itself, in Georgia? Your vote can make a difference in November. Remember that.

Bubba Buttcrack

May 21st, 2012
1:25 pm

Just as long as they don’t cut anything from sports…

HS Public Teacher

May 21st, 2012
1:26 pm

Education? We don’t need no stinkin’ education! Welcome to Georgia.

claria

May 21st, 2012
1:29 pm

This is just sad. Our children are getting the worse end of it all around. Bigger class sizes, fewer days in school and for what the worst evil ever, the all mighty dollar!! I am just really trying to find a way for better education for my children because this is not the way.

Howard Finkelstein

May 21st, 2012
1:29 pm

Just as in the private sector, the public sector FINALLY must learn to do more with less.

Touche’

Howard Finkelstein

May 21st, 2012
1:30 pm

“really trying to find a way for better education for my children because this is not the way.”

Agreed Claria, public education/dumbingdown is not the way.

another comment

May 21st, 2012
1:34 pm

The Balanced Calander Folks will be out in force, they were going to give them there Feb. vacation they wanted with the 5 days off. Now with this change in Calandar they and only 3 days off , they have spread them out. My high school daughter had nothing to do in her classes on Friday. She said that the teachers were packing up her stuff. She had no exams today, so I let her stay home to work on some final projects, and study for finals. Why should she sit in class with nothing to do.

My other child goes in Fulton County middle school they did nothing but the Olympics the last 4 days of school.

We have 2 parents that live in 2 counties. One decided she didn’t like the one county and went to live with my ex to finish school. As far as I am concerned their are still extra days that the schools just do nothing with especially after the CRCT in Elementary and Middle. Then in High School after the Seniors are done. Especiallly if you have a child who is in AP classes that has mostly seniors in, once the AP exams are done they have nothing left to do, either.

Frankie

May 21st, 2012
1:38 pm

Maurren, why is there no blog concerning the Georgia Tech HAZING of one of there fraternities and resulting suspension…
Not even one member has been arrested or expelled for the charges….

TB

May 21st, 2012
1:44 pm

What about Georgia’s Illegal Immigration Law…one of the many reasons why the law was implemented was to address overcrowding, thus reducing class size and furthermore saving money – supposedly. I guess it is easier to pass a law like that and continue to cut spending on education than to make a true effort to change this backwards system.

Library Lady

May 21st, 2012
1:49 pm

In reference to “another comment:”
I asked my child (in Gwinnett) why they don’t seem to do anything educational after the students take the CRCT and she replied, “what’s the point of learning?”
Obviously the schools should just furlough the days after the CRCT and call it a year.

Kat

May 21st, 2012
1:51 pm

I thought when they said they were cutting three school days, they meant these next three days. Thank goodness!

Maureen Downey

May 21st, 2012
1:53 pm

@Frankie, Will post soon on that.
Maureen

mystery poster

May 21st, 2012
1:57 pm

I was just talking to my husband this AM about the fact that when we were in school, it never even occurred to me that the teachers had probably already had our report cards done for a week and there probably wasn’t much learning going on that last week of school.

Of course, my parents would never have said anything to me like “why don’t you do anything the last week of school” either. School was in session, we went. End of story.

mystery poster

May 21st, 2012
2:01 pm

@Maureen
Interesting story about parents who consented to corporal punishment at their son’s private school but then go upset that he was spanked too hard. Too touchy a topic for discussion?

mystery poster

May 21st, 2012
2:02 pm

oops *got* upset

Maureen Downey

May 21st, 2012
2:06 pm

@Mystery, Writing it up as we speak.
Maureen

T-Square

May 21st, 2012
2:06 pm

Manny T – I don’t know if you live in Cobb or not, but I can tell you that my property taxes haven’t gone down any even though my house is worth much less. Also, they raised the millage rates last year, so maybe they’re facing the political reality of being voted out unless they lower them. Seems manufactured, but they know that most voters have the attention span of a gnat. If it lasts that long.

gumby

May 21st, 2012
2:10 pm

A step increase amounts to 1% pay raise. Seeing how no Cobb employee has had a pay raise in 4 years. The last Pay raise was a 3 % raise and the Following year they took back 2%. In the mean time insurance has risen and inflation has occured. The average Cobb County employee makes less now than they did 4 years ago

Elizabeth

May 21st, 2012
2:13 pm

The new normal will eventually become the new tradition. And when we are having trouble finding warm bodies ( much less, REAL teachers) to fill babysitting positions in the classrooms, We will realize what we have done: driven out the professionals and brought in the babysitters. Welcome to the new normal.

TimeOut

May 21st, 2012
2:17 pm

I would like to see an investigative piece on ALEC in every major paper and newsite in the land. We need to ‘get the word out’ about this organization and the impact it has had. Many know of it. ALEC needs to be on every front page and in every op/ed in the country.

Donaldo

May 21st, 2012
2:23 pm

Public education is sending us all a signal…we have to be smart enough to understand….privatization, Charter Schools are part of the solution….local communities take the lead, eliminate bloated bureaucrats, pay teachers a living wage. Our current system based on taxes is outdated, we need to rethink this entirely. Just look around, it is already being done, we should learn from the successes of others. Bureacrats, and union leaders will fight this, play on our fears, rather than lead by example and solutions, they will resist. The die has been cast, either change, improve, or continue down the path and over the cliff.

Maureen Downey

May 21st, 2012
2:24 pm

T-Square

May 21st, 2012
2:25 pm

gumby – The average Cobb County employeeeffectively (fixed that for you) makes less now than they did 4 years ago

And that is different from the rest of the working world exactly how?

AngryRedMarsWoman

May 21st, 2012
2:27 pm

So glad I took the steps earlier this year to have my 8th grade son apply to various private high schools and find the one that fit. Our Cobb County high school is a “Top 10″ in the State…with 2,000 students! How can they possibly succeed with each of those kids individually? They can’t. They can have my tax dollars, but not my son’s future.

curious

May 21st, 2012
2:28 pm

If public education isn’t the answer, then just close the schools and let the parents handle it.

Back in 60’s, one county in Virginia closed their public schools rather than integrate. That didn’t work well, but this is a new day.

mystery poster

May 21st, 2012
2:29 pm

@Maureen
Thanks. It should make for some very interesting reading.

HS Public Teacher

May 21st, 2012
2:42 pm

@Donaldo – Let’s be clear. It is not public education that is sending that signal at all! It is the republicans in office here in Georgia.

Look at the insane rules, regulations, requirements, standardized testing, and on and on that the Georgia republicans have heaped onto public education over the last 10 years or so (this does not impact private schools). Then, added to that look at the budget cuts in education – this is not the fault of “public education” (again, the budget cuts referred to does not impact private schools).

Does anyone really wonder why Georgia public education is going downhill?

Lisa

May 21st, 2012
2:45 pm

It’s a good thing my kids aren’t in Cobb county!!!! I don’t know what you all are going to do about this situation. I guess you all will be accused of cheating on the CRCT’s next!!!!! There goes the proper values in Cobb!!!!

KMHSmom

May 21st, 2012
3:01 pm

@MannyT at 12:56 pm

“If the county is short on funds, why are they lowering the millage rate?”
Once a SPLOST project list has been completed, the ONLY thing the law allows the school board to use excess funds for is to lower the millage rate. Last year they raised the millage rate, just so they could use excess SPLOST money to reset it back at the same number. I suspect it is the same this time.

@Bubba at 1:25 pm

“Just as long as they don’t cut anything from sports…”
ALL sports activities are extracurricular – meaning paid for by parents through booster clubs. County does pay for the football field, coaches and some buses to/from games. That is all.

My gripes: I would like to see all 350 positions deleted be at the Central Office, or other superfluous positions – not teachers. AND Why step increases? The rest of the general population has not seen a pay raise in many years.
One good thing: One of the furlough days is a teacher work day, so only 2 instruction days were eliminated.

joesnopy

May 21st, 2012
3:06 pm

What happen to Cobb County? Less tax dollars is what happen. I understand you need to do cut but all the Counties in Georgia has be cutting for the last 3 years. Georgia better educate its people or we will always be at the bottom in everything. All of the low skilled jobs have been shipped overseas and now a lot of white collar mid to low skilled jobs are leaving America so Georgia is in big trouble. Better wakeup people. We have a jobs problem in America and it will not be fixed until we stop fighting and look at how and why we do not have jobs. I can tell you this for sure. The white collar jobs was flying out of America years before 2008. The Bush White House knew it and he joked about it. He said I guess we are supplying the World with jobs.

HS Public Teacher

May 21st, 2012
3:08 pm

@KMHSmom – “One good thing: One of the furlough days is a teacher work day, so only 2 instruction days were eliminated.”

Good? Forcing someone to work without pay is “good”? I still don’t know how any school system can get away with doing this type of thing.

Can McDonald’s force their employees to work without pay?

Can Coca-Cola force their employees to work without pay?

Why is this seemingly okay in education? I just don’t understand….

really now

May 21st, 2012
3:47 pm

HS teach, here’s how that works…
If you are in a merit postion, not just ed. you are paid a flat rate for a period, (month, week, year, etc). You recieve that amount regardless of the number of hours worked. That is how salaried employees are compensated. Comapring hourly wage to salaried is not an accurate comparison.

mark

May 21st, 2012
3:49 pm

I guess those cobb county republicants know how to fix it. Those darn democrats got us in to this mess. Oh wait. I don’t think a dem has won a post in Cobb for some time now. Chip Rodgers will fix it!! he is from Cobb. He can solve the problems he created or at least dump them on us. Vote OUT Chip Rodgers in 2012. Us Fulton Folks are not going to deal with his stupidity.

Cobb Taxpayer

May 21st, 2012
3:53 pm

This is still a diaster for a budget – not a realistic nor mature approach by 4 of the Cobb School Board Members – they have staffed and support a delivery model that’s not affordable – so what next ? I would start looking at non-core curriculum teaching positions – they have thousands of the nice to have positions and then the local property tax supplement ! Deficit budgets will not carry the day, the month or the year – if the SPLOST 3 fails Cobb will not be able to fix a broken window pane.

Cobb History Teacher

May 21st, 2012
4:06 pm

The funny thing is most experts admit American students don’t go to school long enough which is why they are falling behind, yet we continue to shorten the school year. I heard an “expert” say this on news (CNN I think) last Thursday. He stated that students should go to school 60 more days per year (that wouldn’t fly in Cobb County remember the calendar hoopla?). He stated that Americans won’t lengthen the school year due to the cost and that this cost was a result of labor costs (teachers and administrators – he failed to mention transportation cost) and he seemed to intimate that teachers and other staff should work those days without any additional compensation. With that being said maybe Doctors should take a pay cut so that more Americans can afford health care? Maybe Lawyers should practice law for less so more people can afford their services? Maybe “professional” athletes should play for less so more fans can afford to go to the games and be entertained? Maybe the oil companies should sell gasoline for less so more Americans can afford to go to work and travel?
I find it funny that certain professions are allowed to want more and can argue why they should get paid a premium yet teachers are always asked to do more for less (no, I’m not complaining about being paid enough I complaining about others asking me to do my job for less). I guess it’s wrong for the families of teachers to want the same things others want, like nice homes in safe neighborhoods, new cars on occasion, vacations to exotic destinations, new cell phones and flat screen TV’s. I guess these are luxuries reserved for just the rich and famous.
Maybe I’m asking for too much?

Teacher, Too

May 21st, 2012
4:06 pm

I’m taking grades through tomorrow. Wednesday and Thursday are early release days. Students will finish any project presentations on Wednesday, and then play language arts games. Thursday, students will be allowed to sign yearbooks. So, all in all, my students have worked almost to the last day of school.

2kidsinschool

May 21st, 2012
4:25 pm

My kids teacher said they teach all the curriculum for the year before the CRCT to get it all in for the test then they are basically done for the year.

Chip Rogers needs to be voted out. He does not support public schools. Remember that when you go to the ballot box.

jarvis

May 21st, 2012
4:40 pm

They need to lessen the property tax break for seniors in Cobb County. I pay for a lot of things that I don’t use that benefit seniors. They can pay some share of educating children.

Mary Elizabeth

May 21st, 2012
5:04 pm

@TimeOut, 2:17 pm

“I would like to see an investigative piece on ALEC in every major paper and newsite in the land. We need to ‘get the word out’ about this organization and the impact it has had. Many know of it. ALEC needs to be on every front page and in every op/ed in the country.”
=============================================

AMEN to that!

SomewhereIn Cobb

May 21st, 2012
5:10 pm

Here are the biggest Cobb face-slaps: new supt gets 6 figure salary & organizes “cabinet” of 6 figure salaries (”we HAVE to pay what the market commands or we won’t get GOOD candidates”), NONE of whom get axed or even reduced pay in this cut; new supt says we must cut 350 experienced TEACHING positions & then goes about “fund raising” to pay Teach for America hires; new supt & over 100 others will be taking a trip to FL for a conference this summer at a 6 figure sum; board approves a FORMER supt & his office of former CCSD employees to develop a list of projects on which to spend the next SPLOST (up for a vote later this summer). So….somebody tell me again what a great job is going on in the Cobb Co central office, because I certainly don’t see the degreed professionals over there performing the stated purpose of a school district. Perhaps next year all the teachers will be laid off and the Glover Street suits will have to actually go into classrooms to teach. Oh, wait. The supt will have “found” money for more TFA folks by then.

Reality check

May 21st, 2012
5:20 pm

In all honesty, my son’s elementary school isn’t doing anything between now and June 1st except costing me additional money to pay for programs, pictures, yearbooks, etc. that will end up in a dumpster by the end of the summer. And why do we have Pre-K, Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle School, AND High School graduation? Is it because they know 50% or more of the students won’t have a High School graduation? It is a waste of time and resources if they stop teaching once the CRCT is over.

Donaldo

May 21st, 2012
5:28 pm

HS School Teacher: Thanks for making my point, privatization is not bound by all the ridiculous regs. voted on by both parties. I choose not to politicize this more than it already is. I was an educator, a darn good one many years ago, but I left when I witnessed the ineptitude of administrators from many counties, across the country. My point was, and still is, that education is funded like a ponzi scheme, and we must completely change our thinking. Look at the most successful programs from around the world, then the public must insist on changes, but I am no fool, bureacrats and teacher unions will fight this for their lives.If I were still teaching, I would insist on higher pay. Are you getting this today? The answer is privatization, because I guarantee you will make more, a lot more, if you are good.

Howard Finkelstein

May 21st, 2012
5:37 pm

Whats the problem here. As I recall, most “teachers” chose teaching for other than financial gain/rewards. Or so Ive heard them say numerous times.

Hmmmm….

HSTeach

May 21st, 2012
5:40 pm

As a teacher in Dekalb facing a pay cut and classes of up to 40 students next year, it’s enough to make me cry. Race to the Top is bringing a complete curriculum change in language arts, from 70% fiction to 70% non-fiction with no texts, no help, increased evaluations, and higher standards to vault with virtually no resources. All this with 40 students in each class? We have had 4 out of 5 planning periods a week taken from us for mandatory meetings, and they expect us to make gold from straw. I have recently considered leaving teaching so I can have the time and energy to start a family of my own, and a salary which allows me to pay off my student loans. I cant pay the loans from my teaching degree with a teaching degree. If sanity doesnt arrive soon, the teaching ranks will be decimated, Teaching and grading 40 in a class is a quick way to burn out, living paycheck to paycheck with advanced degrees is no way to make a living, and hearing constantly that teachers are to blame for socioeconomic conditions outside our control is enough to make one weep. It affects the students, being crammed into rooms with burned out demoralized teachers who scrape to get by and worry that their jobs are yearly to be threatened by educrats with clipboards and budget cutters with no classroom experience. When 30-50% of teachers leave by years 3-5, we have a problem. When students can’t move because they are in a room with 39 others and yet small group differentiation is called for, we have a problem.

Real story

May 21st, 2012
5:43 pm

@HS Public Teacher and @KMHSmom – “One good thing: One of the furlough days is a teacher work day, so only 2 instruction days were eliminated.”

The furlough day is not a teacher work day….that Friday was supposed to be the last day of school, but that is a day when students will not attend. Instead of closing schools that day and bringing all staff back for 3 days (instead of 4) of post planning the following week, they moved the work days up by one, so postplanning will be Friday, Tuesday and Wednesday (Monday is Memorial Day holiday). The children still miss 3 days of school, Friday before Christmas break (oh sorry, Winter break), Friday preceding President’s Day and the last day of school.