.

Call the Governor! Our School System is "broke"!

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a local School Board in possession of a huge budget shortfall will immediately plead for money from the State coffers. 

However little known the facts and figures of the situation, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of some that they cannot see when the situation is truly dire and the local School Board really and truly does need money from the State.

In the current case of Cobb County schools, the situation could not be more serious.  Even the Chairman of the School Board, Randy Scamihorn says that our school system is "broke", living paycheck to paycheck.

Having talked to countless parties involved in the situation (including many School Board members, the Teachers’ Union, etc.) and having examined the facts in as much detail as possible, I am of the opinion that the answer has to lie with Governor Deal.

Already, CCSD School Board is, in my opinion, doing a near miraculous job with limited resources. 

74.4% of the General Fund is spent directly on instruction (more than most school districts) and only 1.4% is spent on general administration (this is the lowest percentage in Metro Atlanta districts). 

Property tax income has declined significantly as property values have fallen over recent years (the Cobb property tax digest fell by 17.8 percent between 2008 and 2012 due to the recession) and Senior exemptions have reduced income from Property taxes drastically (20% approx.). 

Further, State school funding is down 16.9 percent in Cobb County since 2002 whereas Cobb student enrollment has risen by 11 percent in that time.  Money Cobb is supposed to receive by State Law (the Quality Basic Education Act) from Georgia funds has not been paid due to the Governor inadequately funding the QBE formula / Austerity Cuts.  For example, last year Cobb Schools had to contribute $131.5m but received nothing back (Equalization grants go to districts with lower property wealth per student) and in addition, were denied $66 million in QBE funds for FY 2014 they are entitled to by law, due to Austerity Cuts alone.  Note again that Georgia is, in effect, breaking the law by not fully funding the QBE formula.

Last year, CCSD School Board had a shortfall of around $80m to grapple with and as a result,  were forced to leave many teaching positions (182) unfilled (resulting in increased class sizes) and to implement five furlough days in an attempt to meet the budget.  Even so, they were still forced to take money out of the Reserve fund ($41m in fact). Note that this is a "rainy day fund" which should only be utilized in an emergency situation - if the Reserve fund runs out there is a very real possibility that the County could go bankrupt - i.e. be unable to pay its teachers!

This year, CCSD School Board is looking at a similar shortfall of between $75-80m.  Although the CCSD School Board is exploring ways to make cuts to central administration costs (though they would have to wipe out nearly all non-teaching staff in order to raise anywhere close to $80m) and is considering options like an increase to the millage rate (which is almost at its legal maximum already – 18.9 – the max is 20), no matter what they do, they cannot close the gap locally without also losing still more teaching positions and/or increasing furlough days.   They simply cannot keep taking money out of our Reserve fund (there is only about $75m left as it is!). Already, furlough days have meant that, in effect, all staff members have taken a pay cut of five days’ pay.  Furlough days are disastrous, not only for our kids who are not getting the 180 days of education they are supposed to get by law, but also for morale of teachers and other staff.   Cobb County simply cannot afford to lose more teachers. Our children's education is at stake.  The Jewel in Cobb’s crown, Education, is at stake.

The only solution is to put a lot of pressure on the Governor of Georgia.  The QBE formula simply must be fully funded.  Austerity cuts must be reduced / eliminated.  Cobb County must receive more money from the State or be allowed to hold on to more of its own money - to contribute less towards the Equalization needs of other districts. So I am personally asking you, if you can do ONLY one thing. Make a call to Nathan Deal's office.

His number is 404-656-1776. You will talk to a staff member, of course, not to the Governor himself, but apparently calls to his office are taken extremely seriously. All you need to say is this sentence: "I support the call for Governor Deal to fully fund the QBE formula" and then leave your name and address. This will take you around 3-5 minutes.

YOU have the power to make a REAL change to the way your kids, and kids in the whole of Georgia are educated over the next year.

PLEASE make the call NOW!  

To find out more about how Georgia State funding of Education works see the link below

http://georgiaeducation.org/documents/Basics%20of%20GA%20School%20Finance_2007.pdf

To find out more about Cobb County’s School Budget see the link below

http://www.cobbk12.org/budget/





Bob December 15, 2013 at 08:57 PM
Make marijuana legal in Cobb Country and use the revenues generated to help support the school system.
Michelle Sollicito December 16, 2013 at 09:33 AM
Very helpful suggestion Bob. Next you will suggest we put Drug Pushers in charge of schools instead of Principals? Perhaps if you stopped taking the pot you would see how serious the situation is. We need realistic suggestions here please. We live in Cobb County not California.
Bob December 16, 2013 at 10:03 AM
Michelle Sollicito. What do you suggest? How about raising taxes in Cobb Country. That would make all the Republicans just stand up and cheer. Maybe you would suggest setting up a lemonade stand to raise revenues. Let us hear one of your "helpful suggestions" rather than stupid criticisms.
Bob December 16, 2013 at 10:24 AM
Michelle Sollicito. I have a better suggestion. How about a small tax on alcoholics such as yourself. Everytime you buy a drink, a small school tax will be added. Considering how much people in Cobb Country like to drink, that should really raise revenue for schools very quickly.
Michelle Sollicito December 16, 2013 at 11:42 AM
I believe I made some very good suggestions in my article if you would like to actually read it. Thanks Bob. "Increasing the millage rate" DOES mean raising taxes. Also, by asking the Governor to fully fund QBE I am probably effectively asking for a State tax raise because that is probably how it would be funded unfortunately (rather than reducing the "bloat" as we would all like). Even Republicans and Tea Party members are actually agreeing that things like this need to be done at this point. Off for a bottle of vodka now Bob.. Ciao
Bob December 16, 2013 at 12:48 PM
Michelle Sollicito. My bad. I read your article but I never looked to see who wrote it. It was your snarky comment that I objected to. You might not like my suggestion but someday it will be a reality across the country if the current trends continue. There is a lot of money to be made from the sale and taxation of marijuana for those who can stop believing in government created myths.
Teafortwo December 16, 2013 at 12:50 PM
Thank you Michelle for the sobering reminder that education in Cobb is everyone's business. It's often the determining factor when people choose to relocate to Cobb County, either from surrounding counties or from other parts of the country. Education matters in ways that affect the tax digest. People pay more to know that the schools in their district are of excellent quality. I've had a student in the district now since 2008. I have seen changes I don't like in those years. Classroom sizes are off the charts (32 crammed into a 4th grade class), and all the school district has to do is ask the State Superintendent for a waiver on the state mandated class size limits. All roads lead to Governor Deal and our elected officials who hold the purse strings. Hold them accountable.
Mike Holzknecht December 16, 2013 at 06:11 PM
In Cobb, we cut taxes and cut taxes then we ask for the governor to save us. This is Cobb's problem. We created it. As adults , we must fix our mess. Give back some of the tax cuts that have put us in this bind. Increase my property tax. Remove my homestead exemption that lowers my property tax. I am eligible for the senior school tax exemption but decline to take it. School Board member David Banks accepts the senior school tax exemption, pays no school taxes, and asks the governor to cover the shortfall that we created.
Michelle Sollicito December 16, 2013 at 06:42 PM
I agree Mike, to some extent, that we should raise taxes. However, the only thing within the control of the School Board is the millage rate. The millage rate is already at 18.9 and can only go up to 20 by law. I believe the School Board WILL raise the millage rate - I think they have to - to 20. But that will not give us the $80m and what I am concerned about is where else the money has to come from.
Chris P. December 16, 2013 at 06:46 PM
Michelle, I would support a small increase in property taxes and at least a partial repeal or mean-testing of the senior's property tax exemption, along with your suggestion to restore state funding, however only with one additional requirement: A 5 year moratorium on education SPLOSTs effective whenever the current one ends, which I think is 2017. Part of the problem here is perception. People blindly vote for these education SPLOSTs thinking that the money will go to pay teachers and reduce classroom sizes, when all it does is enrich the local architects, materials and engineering firms and astroturf salesmen. Then we end up with "Taj Mahal" high schools with facilities that would make many private universities jealous, but underpaid/overworked teachers and overflowing classrooms. The public doesn't do their homework and the Chamber of Commerce exploits this fact. You can bet that insiders get most of the deals. It's called "crony capitalism", and you and I aren't in the club. Of course there will be an outcry from the usual suspects but demographically we're looking at flat to declining enrollment over the next 10 years, so just ignore them.
Bob December 16, 2013 at 07:22 PM
What can you expect from a Republican controlled country. They hate taxes to such a degree that they cut back on essential services because money is not available. Yet Republicans cannot seem to find creative ways to raise revenues. Colorado and Washington seem to be able to come up with an additional revenue source but we cannot offend all the the hard drinking religious nuts in Cobb.
Michelle Sollicito December 16, 2013 at 09:06 PM
Chris P, I agree that building huge schools seems too much of a priority right now - in fact, I am one of the most vocal opponents to the proposed new "Mega School" proposed by David Banks, supposedly combining EastValley with most of Powers Ferry. However, I do feel that there are a lot of older Cobb schools that need more than just band aid repairs - even EastValley does. I just do not think "Mega Schools" are the answer to that. I think it is just too intimidating for a kindergartener to go to a school with 1000+ kids in it. However, the education Splost was supposed to provide funds to build new schools and/or repair existing ones and was voted in on the proviso that those funds were spent on that and only that (I have no idea why that proviso was put into the Splost - why the Splost could not also fund things like Math books, teachers' salaries and so on. I will be looking into those reasons very shortly) I too hate Crony Capitalism, and I smell a rat of this type in the Splost too. I am championing the campaign to find out why David Banks is so keen to build a new STEM Campus - what the financials are behind it - as I suspect, too, that the "insiders" get those deals on buying the old Powers Ferry school property and EastValley property (and probably the ECMS and Wheeler properties also). I am sure it will bring a lot of money in for Cobb County too, but I bet it will not do a few other people any harm either! Funnily, Bob, I am actually a registered Democrat, and I helped the Obama campaigns, but I have found the Tea Party and the Republicans very very reasonable as I have been talking to them about these issues. They all appear to understand how important Education is to Cobb, to businesses, to industry. They want us to spend wisely any taxes that are raised. But all of them appear to be very happy to raise taxes given the situation the Cobb School board finds itself in. I would add that Randy Scamihorn is a "Fiscal Conservative", and Scott Sweeney is a Republican and they seem pretty resigned to the fact that taxes have to be raised, however reluctant they are to raise them. David Banks (another Republican) prefers to try to raise taxes another way (LEST - local education sales tax) but whichever way you cut it, it is still a tax raise. Many speakers at the Tea Party meeting at Lu's last month said that Education is so important, and the situation is so dire, that they agree taxes have to be raised. So the idea that Tea Partiers and Republicans are totally against all tax raises is a bit of a myth. They are just fearful of just handing over the purse strings - they want to be sure that they are not putting a Fox in charge of the Hen House. I hope, on the other hand, they also do not want Crony Capitalism any more than we do. In the end that is misspent money just the same as that which results from a lack of fiscal control.
Chris P. December 17, 2013 at 09:15 AM
Michelle, I think that most of the needs for rebuilding/repairing schools should be met by the current SPLOST, which runs through 2016 or 2017. Trading a LEST for a SPLOST after that might make sense, and assuming both are a 1% tax it would be revenue neutral. I haven't done the amount of research you have though, keep up the good work.
Michelle Sollicito December 17, 2013 at 10:21 PM
Unfortunately SPLOST cannot be used for the things that the Cobb School Board needs to pay for to avoid the teacher elimination / furlough day increase. It can only be spent on buildings by law. The idea of LEST is that it would be a recurring tax, each year, providing income that CAN be spent on things like teachers' salaries. I believe David Banks is working with others across Georgia to implement LEST, so that all local School Districts can use the LEST taxes raised for things like paying for teachers' salaries. I doubt it would take effect for a few years anyhow but I may be wrong.
Michelle Sollicito December 17, 2013 at 10:30 PM
To find out more about what you can do to help fund Cobb schools go to my facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/FundCobbSchools/
Renee Ladner January 11, 2014 at 08:25 PM
Bob is right. There are some major alcoholics in east Cobb.
userbronco January 16, 2014 at 08:22 AM
Why not just have Cobb co stop paying the state the fees and taxes it collects on their behalf? Why not have Cobb co sue the state for the money owed? Vouchers anyone? Once Obamacare fully kicks in. The Cobb schools will the the least of your worries
Heather January 17, 2014 at 09:17 AM
I hate that money is taken from Cobb and given to other counties but I am not for getting rid of QBE altogether. Other school systems need this money as well, other school systems is more dire straits than Cobb. I am for reevaluating the formula for funding. Now, Cobb is being more fiscally responsible for budget such as lowest administrative budget, which is should being the shortfalls year after year. But in the past, spending was overkill.
Fiona Cosham February 04, 2014 at 04:20 PM
Heather , I don't see why it is our problem what goes on in other counties, this is not a communist or socialist state. We pay that money for our children not someone else's. user bronco ... That's a good idea we should as such privatise our school system in Cobb so we ( a group of officials elected by us and not paid for by crony capitalists) decide how the money is spent in our schools and none is siphoned off for other counties or by Deal for his "special projects"
Jacque Cousteu February 09, 2014 at 04:50 PM
I think I will leave it to our elected Governor to decide exactly how much money Cobb needs for our schools. I don't think the teachers union should be making that decision for us. It costs the US 1 Billion dollars to put a man on the moon, and you want me to believe Cobb County can run it's schools on 900 million with a graduation rate in the 70%? I realize the 1 Billion to go to the moon was in the 1960's, however I also realize that 900 Million today won't do even next year for the teachers union. In 5 years they will probably be crying for 1.25- 1.5 Billion where will it all end? Here is what we need: 1. Higher Graduation rates. 2. Realistic budget decided by Governor, School Board & Voters if necessary. 3. Realistic pensions, and assurances from teachers union that anyone fired for a criminal offense or serious misconduct regarding a student will lose all benefits including pension. 4. Schools are about students first. Teachers are to be rewarded for their service, with a fair wage and the satisfaction of helping children. 5. It should always be about the well being of the children.
Mike Holzknecht February 09, 2014 at 05:29 PM
Hello Jacque , A statement of faith of the willfully uninformed is to criticize the "teachers union". There is no teachers union in Georgia. There is a professional association, in fact I think that there are at least 2 professional teachers associations. What is a professional association? How about the American Medical Association, or Dental association, or CPA Association. Respect facts and the truth and stop writing willy-nilly. Try to make one of your teachers proud.
Jacque Cousteu February 09, 2014 at 08:43 PM
Ok then exactly what is a teachers association? I attended the school board meeting at Walton High. I watched the video designed to inform us that Cobb School Board didn't have enough money. Wonder who paid for the video. I listened to the Superintendent tell us it cost 3 million a day to run the schools. 200 thousand a day for bus service so he said "Let's call it 3.5 million a day. Nice, let's just throw in an extra 300 thousand a day perhaps he needs more hair gel. Sorry I'm old school 900 Million should be sufficient with a graduation rate in the 70%. I don't want a superintendent estimating expenses, I want him to know them. And what in the world are we doing spending $200,000 a day for bus service? Call it a teachers association if you like, let's get the graduation rate up say into the 90% before we pat ourselves on the back and expect 1 Billion a year for Cobb County Schools.

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