The Atlanta Public School Budget Commission has passed and now forwarded the $658 million FY15 Budget to the full Board for final approval (see AJC article here). The Commission voted unanimously for a resolution that adopted the budget, but the resolution also indicated that the Commission had strong reservations about the current expenditure plan and would look to working with the new superintendent to develop a revised budget in the near future.
As part of the motion that passed, the Committee stated the following items:
- A concern with the use of $25 million in General Fund reserves to balance the budget
- A concern with the fact that the administration had not proposed any reallocation of expenditures from the administrative functions to expenditures in the schools for teachers and other personnel and materials that are in direct engagement with students
- A concern regarding the maximum class size waiver and the lack of a plan to potentially reduce class sizes over time
- The motion did acknowledge and approve of the hiring and procurement freeze implemented by Superintendent Davis (see here) which has the intent of providing “the greatest flexibility for Dr. Carstarphen to make organizational changes as she assumes leadership of APS”
Most importantly, the motion incorporated the idea that the Budget Commission would enter into substantial and detailed discussions with the new superintendent to address the concerns above.
Additionally, per the AJC, Chairman English said,
We want to continue to push money down to the schools, make the central office more efficient and find ways to save money,” said board Chairman Courtney English. “The folks who should be making decisions with money are those closest to kids.”
And while not addressing all the specific concerns voiced by the Committee, per the AJC article Superintendent Davis indicated that he,
…supported the proposal, saying the school system could work to use a smaller amount of reserve funds than the full $25 million amount budgeted.
It was also interesting to note that he and the Senior Cabinet would work closely with Dr. Carstarphen and that he would “listen to her recommendations”. This may be an indication that Davis is not going to slip quietly into the background as the transition unfolds.
I think the actions taken by the Budget Commission are the right ones given the current situation. The current administration has clearly signaled that it will not work in partnership with the Board to implement its policy directions and campaign promises. While the Board could have engaged in a nasty and ugly fight, it chose not to do so and instead to work with the new superintendent to implement their policy goals. By not engaging in a futile battle with the current administration, the Board has maintained another campaign promise of working together as adults in finding solutions to significant problems.
Congratulations to the Budget Commission and to the Chair of the Commission Matt Westmoreland for navigating past what could have been a contentious problem and making forward progress on getting to a budget that is consistent with their goals.
The administration also discussed how the proposed $15 million salary increase would be allocated. As this is a bit complex, I will address this in a separate post.
[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon]