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Buckhead group discusses new APS budget issues
by Caroline Young
May 09, 2013 09:37 PM | 2097 views | 1 1 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In a month from now, the Atlanta Board of Education must approve the fiscal 2014 budget. So far, cutting teachers and upping class sizes are on the radar.

“No budget has yet to be presented [to the school board],” CPA and current Georgia State University economics student Jarod Apperson, who is pursuing a PhD, said Thursday at the Buckhead Council of Neighborhood’s monthly meeting at Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Buckhead.

The main issue is no initial budget was planned ahead of time, he said, and Gwinnett County Schools, for example, kicks off the budget process in the early winter, months before the budget must be approved.

Apperson gave the group an overview of the Atlanta Public Schools budget for fiscal 2013, which totals $855 million.

He said the administration’s current proposal is based on raising class sizes from about 30 students per class to 33, and having fewer teachers, as well as cutting after-school programs.

Compared to other metro Atlanta systems, the Atlanta district spent the most money at $15,636 per student during fiscal 2012, Apperson said. For example, Fulton County spent $9,995 per student in the same year.

“A lot of people are upset about raising class size. It doesn’t seem like we have enough information to do that belt-tightening. I’m thinking we should go in the opposite direction,” he said. “But that conversation isn’t really even going on.”

Apperson said there are several aspects of the budget to review and possibly change, including class size.

“APS spends 33 percent on teachers’ salaries. This places us at the lowest in the metro area for the percentage we spend on teacher salaries,” Apperson said. “If we could [allocate] 43 percent of the money to teacher salaries, class size would go down to 16 students per class. With the amount of money we have, it’s not unreasonable to expect to have class sizes extremely low.”

For parents or anyone who wants to get involved with setting the budget for fiscal 2014, Apperson recommends get-ting in touch with school board representatives now.

First, he said to request the full budget and not just the general fund, which only makes up 65 percent of the total budget.

“Request a denial of the class size waiver until we have a full budget and community input,” he said.

He said concerned citizens should request that their school board representative establish a budget that begins at a reasonable time of year, presents real tradeoffs with the costs and benefits of each, and compares planned spending to actual spending throughout the fiscal year. The fiscal 2014 budget must be approved by June 30, when the current fiscal year ends.

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