Atlanta Public School Audit Committee meets to review Equity Audit


Atlanta Public School Board of Education member Byron Amos convened a meeting of the Audit Committee to review the recently released Equity Audit. The report was prepared by Dr. C. Kevin Fortner who is an Assistant Professor of Research Measurement and Statistics at Georgia State University.

A summary of the Audit is here and the entire 1,400 page report is here.

Dr. Rubye Sullivan, APS Director of Research and Evaluation, made a presentation summarizing the results of the Audit. Her presentation was articulate and she is very knowledgeable about the topics discussed. During her presentation, she cautioned the Audit Committee that the report was a “snapshot in time” and additional work would be necessary to evaluate the extensive amount of data presented in the report. Additionally, she indicated that all of the data found in the report was aggregated from various APS systems or other APS sources, but that APS did not have a mechanism to pull the data together in one place to evaluate more current information.

Dr. Fortner was asked about the validity of the $15,000 per student spending on charter school students. He indicated that the graph presented (page 23 of the report) was based on an allocation methodology he had selected and that there were alternative allocation methodologies that could be used. When pressed by certain Board members, he agreed to provide the Committee with a revised version of the graph that did not allocate any central administration costs to the charter schools since the charter schools are responsible for funding their own administrative costs. As noted in yesterday’s post (see here), the spending per student for charter schools will likely decrease by approximately $5,000 and the amount will be reallocated to the traditional school per student spending presented in the graph.

The Audit Committee did not take any action on the report, but noted that it was receiving public comments and that other Board committees were also evaluating the information presented in the report. Chairman of the Board English also noted that the Board would be holding future work sessions to better define the Board’s goals to reduce resource and other inequities in the district.

I would also caution readers of the report to not jump to any conclusions from the data presented. The report contains little or no evaluation of the data presented and there is a need for extensive additional analysis prior to developing policy initiatives to reduce inequities in the system. Additionally, the reports presentation on financial resource allocations across the district is wholly inadequate and a much more extensive assessment should be prepared prior to reaching any conclusions.

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9 Responses to Atlanta Public School Audit Committee meets to review Equity Audit

  1. tom tidwell says:

    I agree that everyone should tread cautiously. The report is an excellent first step, but its only the first step on a long journey . Inequities did not develop overnight and they won’t be solved overnight. This couId present a unique opportunity to make real and meaningful change. Its important to avoid knee-jerk reactions and fully understand what is happening and why.

  2. Bob, while I don’t know what the exact allocation of central administrative costs to charter schools should be, I don’t see how it’s feasible for it to be zero. Is it not proper that at least a portion of the administrative cost for the Office of Innovation (Allen Mueller and his staff) be allocated to charter schools? The work of Dr. Sullivan and her team? Is this is accounted for in another way?

    • Tamara – thanks for the comment. Based on my review of the cost incurred, I have concluded that the little or no APS central administration costs should be allocated to the charter schools. The Office of Innovation is more than fully funded by the 2% cut APS takes from the allocation of local and state revenues for the charter schools. Last year this amounted to over $1.4 million and the core cost of Mueller’s group is closer to $700 thousand. The balance of these funds are used to cover some additional costs APS incurs in their relationship with the charters. There may be additional costs that APS incurs as the result of the charter schools, but in my many discussions on the topic with senior APS officials, the amounts are very minimal and likely close to zero after considering any payments made by charter schools for services contracted for with APS.

      Bob

  3. tom tidwell says:

    Tamara,

    Subject to Bob to correcting me, I think the variable costs, over and above what APS would spend even if we had no charter schools, is probably de minimis on a per capita basis.

  4. Jarod Apperson says:

    I see what you’re saying Tamara. The operations of a couple of parts of CO do support both charter & traditional. R&E that you cite is a good example with a bit of overlap. Somewhere around $100 per student might be an appropriate figure. $5,000 is not in the ballpark.

  5. Thanks for the great replies, Bob, Tom and Jarod.
    Yes Jarod, it does seem to me that somewhere in the $100-$200 ballpark is the most likely range. I don’t know how they came up with $5,000, since there’s no backup documentation.
    I see what you’re saying Bob, and in order of magnitude I agree, but I don’t see how it’s possible to zero out that spending in this analysis just because APS is taking the 2% fee.
    How does that spending, for Mr. Mueller’s department for instance, get allocated? Would it be part of the per pupil expenditures for the traditional schools or does it just get subtracted from the ledger of administrative expenses altogether?
    At $700k, Mr. Meuller’s group would be $100 per charter student. The full 2%/$1.4 million would be $200 (which is what I anticipate we might see in a subsequent iteration).
    And I agree that there is so much information in this report and that it will take time, patience, and cooperation to perform follow up analysis.
    Thanks for what each of you do,
    Tamara

    • Tamara – if you only consider the expense side, you are absolutely correct. The charter school Statement of Activities would in fact show a cost per student for services from the central office amounting to the 2% fee they pay to APS. And the estimate of $200 per student is correct. This would also be a subtraction from the cost per student at traditional schools, but only amounts to approximately $32 per student. I tend to look at both the revenues and costs together as I believe the information is more useful from a management perspective and often will net specific revenues out of the specifically related costs when the information is available (which is rare).

      Your question also raises the issue as to whether the fee paid is appropriate. The charter schools should be charged an admin fee that would cover the cost of the Office of Innovation, any processing costs and for any direct services given to the charter schools, but with the large increase this year of charter students, the fee is nearly double the cost of the OofI and the fee should be reduced to 1% which represents approximately $100 per charter school student. I know that this has been discussed internally at APS, but as of yet no decision has been made.

      Again, thanks for clarifying the issue and – if we are keeping score – Tamara 1 – Bob 0. Well done. Bob

    • Tamara – I should have also added that this issue will get a lot more focus in the coming year due to the charter conversion of Centennial. As of last month, there was still internal debate as to whether Centennial would purchase services directly from APS or go outside to possibly get the services cheaper than APS’ internal cost structure. As these issues are resolved, it will begin to create a better cost allocation methodology in APS which may extend to other areas of central admin costs. Bob

  6. Beverly Fraud says:

    Again, with this patently ridiculous $15,000 charter school figure, we see APS doesn’t have a “money problem.” APS has an INTEGRITY problem.

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