15 Sep 2014
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Looking for bloat in the Cobb County School District

Over Christmas, I spent a few weeks going through all the publicly available financial info about Cobb County School District and how it spends its money.

I looked at just about all salary levels in Cobb County and compared them to comparable positions in other School Districts across the country, and across GA state.

As a result of this detailed study, with help from CCSD board members, in particular, Scott Sweeney, I found a number of areas that I had questions about:

1) Superintendent Hinojosa's salary (approx $250k plus expenses) seemed excessive to me when compared to the average across the country.

However, Scott Sweeney showed me data that showed that Hinojosa's salary is only just above average when compared to Superintendents from other Atlanta Metro School Districts (see link below for full details )

2) There was a "bucket" that was called "Miscellaneous" in the Salaries section of the budget that had about $8m in it. This made me very suspicious so I looked at it in depth. It turned out that the vast majority of the money in that bucket was for payments to Substitute Teachers.

I looked at Substitute Teacher usage in Cobb County compared to other School Districts too, and while it is a little high it is not off of the charts, and can be explained by factors such as new curriculum causing a lot more meetings and training, low morale causing more teacher absences, etc.

3) I looked at the number of positions in each department as compared to other School Districts with similar numbers of students and found that actually, Cobb County is doing pretty well in this area and there really is not the "bloat" that so many people think there is in this area. 1.4% really IS spent on central admin, and 74% is spent on direct instructional costs, and these REALLY ARE much better than most other School Districts. In this area, I believe CCSD deserves a GOLD MEDAL not criticism.

4) I listened to complaints from teachers and staff about what money is spent on in Cobb County.  In ALMOST EVERY CASE, I traced back the misspent money to either Foundation funds, SPLOST funds, PTA funds or external grants.  Some complained about money being spent on "ipad carts", costly office furniture, etc. for example - that money came from Foundations (charities within the schools that raise money for extras like this).  Some complained about spending on programs like The Leader In Me.  It turned out that that spending was funded out of grants from the Covey group.  The largest complaint was about spending on buildings and sports fields/playgrounds.  The money for those items comes out of SPLOST (a separately funded bucket) and actually REDUCES the cost to the General fund (again see a detailed link below for full analysis).

So after all that investigation I found very little bloat in CCSD.  What I did find was a DIRE need for funds.  See my other article for full details of that http://eastcobb.patch.com/groups/opinion/p/call-the-governor--our-school-system-is-broke

It seems to me that the only realistic options open for CCSD Board for closing the budget gap, assuming we wish to see no teacher positions lost and no furlough days added, are:

1) Get Governor Deal to send more money to Cobb - tell the Governor to CUT THE (Austerity) CUTS

2) Raise more money locally. In the immediate term the only option here is to increase the millage rate from 18.9 to 20. In the longer-term, for a recurring source of income, I fully support David Banks LEST (Local Educational Sales Tax) proposal to put it to a referendum to see if we can have a 1% Sales Tax that we can use LOCALLY in our schools for Instruction and related costs. By the way, I am usually NO FAN of David Banks, so it is a big deal for me to support LEST. It is one of the few ideas David Banks has ever come up with that I agree with!!!!

SO I implore everyone to CALL THE GOVERNOR TODAY!! He is finalizing his budget THIS WEEKEND!!!!!

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!

For more detailed analysis see https://www.facebook.com/groups/FundCobbSchools/permalink/1412687712305673/

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