I watched the DeKalb school board meeting long enough today to hear the school chief announce that the state DOE said DeKalb could cut its school year by additional days.
With an $85 million deficit and no reserves, a proposal is on the table for DeKalb to slash 10 more days.
Paul Womack wants to cut an additional 10 days from the school calendar.In approving a tentative general fund budget, the board had already voted to reduce the school calendar for students by two days. Four furlough days approved for teachers in prior years would also remain, but they would not affect students.
Officials said it costs the system $3 million a day to operate, so the proposal could save $30 million — enough to balance the budget without a tax increase. But they needed time to check on the details, so the budget deliberations were postponed until 6 p.m. Thursday.
But Lisa Morgan, a teacher and representative of the advocacy group Organization of DeKalb Educators, said Womack’s proposal wouldn’t save as much as he thinks. Womack wants to make up the lost school days by lengthening the rest of them. Another county in Georgia tried that several years ago, Morgan said.
“Because teachers were providing the equivalent of 180 days of instruction, they had to be paid for 180 days,” she said. The proposal, Morgan said, could still save money on utilities, gasoline for buses and pay for support personnel, such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers.
Womack threatened to cut teacher pay if his colleagues don’t find some other way to avoid new taxes. “I’m going to get $30 million somewhere,” he said. “I’m not going to vote for a millage increase.”
Here is another idea on how DeKalb could cut costs from a reader — she suggests that DeKalb shut down its whole operation for the month of July.
I think parents would prefer this alternative to slashing instructional days (And I don’t think those lost instructional hours can be mitigated by adding 10 or 20 minutes to the remaining days.)
Please note that several posters have said this idea would not save much money because many DeKalb employees are on 11 month contracts already. In that case, could some of them go to 10 months?
From a reader:
A school-level administrator posited an interesting, creative idea for restructuring the DCSD budget that I thought I’d pass along to you. DeKalb now has 12-month employees (principals, some assistant principals, custodians, and the central office) and 10-month employees (teachers and elementary assistant principals). The idea is to make the 12-month employees into 11-month employees and shut everything down for the month of July.
This administrator explained that everything that schools need to do over the summer to get ready for the next year can be accomplished in the month of June and in that first week or so of August (this year we start back August 13). CRCTs are back and reported in June; AYP has been certified, etc. The buildings can be prepped and planning can be done in June.
And the same goes for the central office — with a competent BOE, get the budget approved by the end of May and then work efficiently and effectively through June.
Yes, it’s a cut in pay for non-classroom personnel, but that should be the priority — cut pay there before you cut teacher pay or increase class size.
This kind of idea has plenty of precedence elsewhere. Back when I worked full-time, a major car manufacturer was a client (I was a lawyer). It shuts down for four weeks a year — from the highest level corporate executives to the assembly line workers at each and every plant. Shut down. Period.
It’s done in the last two weeks of July and the last two weeks of December, and employees are not paid during that time. It saves the company a substantial amount of money.
In these dire financial straits, an idea like this merits at least a try for a couple of years — who knows, we may find that the work gets done just fine and we have actually built up reserves. We need innovative, creative thinking like this, and not the constant bickering that this BOE gives us.
The other suggestion this administrator had was as follows: Have middle and high schools designate one “lead AP” who is the now 11-month employee who works the month of June to prepare for next year.
In reality, many of those assistant principals right now are sitting idle — there’s simply not work for them to do. Anyway, just thought I’d pass these ideas along in case you thought readers would find them interesting to discuss.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog