Atlanta Public Schools direct instruction budget revisions analyzed – no real surprises

The Atlanta Public Schools released a revised budget for FY15 this past Tuesday. As anticipated, the administration reallocated expenses within the Curriculum & Instruction division to address specific initiatives that were not funded in the initial version. The chart below compares the initial budget (version 2) to the budget just released (version 3) for the C&I division only.

FY15 Compare v2 and v3 revisions 032714 

The changes are pretty straight forward and generally consistent with the discussions held in the Budget Committee meetings.

The major change is the reallocation of expenses for the addition of 50 in-school personnel to act as coordinators for the Student Support Teams. The coordinators will be in every school in the district and they will be responsible for making sure “at risk” children are identified and their issues are addressed. When this program was proposed, the Board was very supportive of it, but it did not get into the original budget. The approximately $4.1 million is cost is offset by reductions in the Gifted & Talented program ($1.4 million), the Elementary School Athletics program ($2.0 million) and the Remedial Education programs ($609 thousand.

It is also important to understand that, for each of the programs that had a reduction in budgetary spending due to the reallocation, the programs still have an increase in spending over FY14. Athletics is up $1.2 million, Gifted & Talented is up $200 thousand, Fine Arts is up $1.6 million and both the Early Intervention and Remedial Education programs are up a total of $1.2 million. In other words, no major program has been cut back from FY14.

Additionally, there has been a shift in spending from the In-School Administration to the Central Office School Administration.

It is unclear why the In-School Administration, which has been cut back by $827 thousand from the initial budget, still presents an increase of $2.3 million as compared to FY14. This is especially the case as the staffing has been cut back by 12. It is possible that the restoration of furlough days had some impact on this, but the increase still seems very high.

The increase in Central Office School Administration is more straightforward. Board members raised some concerns regarding the limited funding for the administration of core subjects like Science, Math, Reading and Social Science. The revised budget includes an increase of approximately $504 thousand for these administrative functions.

However, the remaining $394 thousand reallocation to Central Office School Administration seems less justifiable. As compared to the prior budget, the Office of the Deputy Superintendent is going up by $131 thousand – with a substantial increase in the Salary line item even though the staffing is going down by one. The Administrative Services department is being reallocated an additional $214 thousand and is adding four staff positions. The Teaching & Learning department’s budget had a boost of approximately $122 thousand in the reallocations; however, the FY15 spending is actually lower than the FY14 budget. This may have been a simple budget mistake that was corrected in the current revision.

Overall, the reallocations in the direct instruction departments make sense and are consistent with the requests made by Board members. However, as I have noted here before, there still needs to be a lot of cutting of costs to get this total budget back to a balanced level.

Also, there may have been some reallocations in the other divisions. I will be reviewing the information and report back later.

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon]

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