Open Letter – DeKalb Schools FY '15 Budget

If you go to a Tucker Parent Council meeting, there is a good chance you’ll run into Kirk Lunde. He is a parent and tireless advocate for children. In an open letter to Superintendent Thurmond and the Board of Education, published by the Tucker Patch, Mr. Lunde echoes the sentiments of the public, “Class room first!”.
By Kirk Lunde
Tucker Patch
Dear Superintendent Thurmond and Board of Education,
I am writing to share my recommendations for developing the DeKalb County School District’s budget for FY 2015.

I recommend building the budget around the classrooms. The Druid Hills Charter Clustershowed how to do this. The DHCC found that using this “classroom-based” method allowed for smaller class sizes. A “classroom-based” budget would allow for planning to ensure there are enough teachers, counselors, social workers, interpreters, trailers, and desks at each school on the first day of school.
In order to create a “classroom-based” budget the BOE needs to pass a Class Size Exemption Resolution before the budget is developed. It is impossible to build a budget without knowing how many teachers, counselors, social workers, interpreters, trailers, and desks are needed at each school. The State BOE is scheduled to vote on providing waivers to school districts at their Feb. 20, meeting. I recommend the DeKalb BOE pass a Class Size Exemption Resolution during their March 3, meeting.
I also recommend smaller class sizes for every category of instruction. If the BOE does not decrease class sizes from this year’s limits, it will be a dereliction of duty and tantamount to negligence.
Using the BOE approved class sizes, the Division of Curriculum and Instruction needs to determine the needs of each school before any money is allocated to the central administration. Student Support and Transportation are the next logical areas to propose budgets. Ideally, these areas would be fully funded regardless of cost. The DHCC proved this is not the process used for previous DeKalb County School District budgets.
Budget meetings are held each year to get public input. None of the public input is recorded or acted upon. For example, last June I questioned why the travel budget was $10,000 for a department with one full-time employee. I got no response or follow-up and the amount was still in the final version of the budget as posted on the DCSD website. I recommend that all public comments are recorded and posted in the meeting minutes for those meetings. Just reporting the names of the speakers does not reflect their concerns. (This is my recommendation for all BOE meetings, not just budget meetings.)
Also, there needs to be some sort of unifying document to aid in comparing the different versions of the budget. The detailed budget is 1850 pages, but the budget approved by the BOE is aone page document. How are those two things related? That is a basic question to which every taxpayer of DeKalb County should be able to find the answer. Other school districts post videos and documents explaining the budget process. Why can’t DCSD? I recommend providing a way for the public to track where every dollar is budgeted on all the different versions of the budget.
Another aspect of having a “classroom-based” budget is ensuring teachers are paid comparably to other teachers in the region. To that end, I recommend the district eliminate furlough days and resume contributions to the teachers’ retirement fund.
These are the things I believe need to be done to put in place a budget which will support the BOE’s commitment to focusing on teaching and learning. Fully fund the classrooms and schools and if any cuts need to be made, make them elsewhere.
Hopefully this, or a similar process, will be used and DeKalb County teachers and students will see tangible improvements during the next school year.
Thank you for your service.

One response to “Open Letter – DeKalb Schools FY '15 Budget

  1. Thanks for reposting this.
    I hope that hundreds of parents will email and call the BOE to request this process be followed.
    Classrooms first!