Figures show disparity in budget cuts, DeKalb school board member says

Costs for central office staff in the DeKalb County school system have risen even as programs more directly tied to students and learning have taken deep cuts, school board member Nancy Jester said Tuesday.

Jester compiled and posted on her blog an analysis showing that spending on salaries for central office staff has grown 14.4 percent since 2008. At the same time, salary budgets in other departments in the school system have been cut 17 percent to 30 percent.

“We say a lot about trying to protect the classroom environment, about trying to protect teachers, and I want to see that we put our money where our mouth is,” Jester said Tuesday.

“The right thing to do is just to make sure everyone in the school district is making sacrifices,” she said.

School system officials did not respond to a request for comment on Jester’s analysis, which she was based on a review of public documents.

The analysis shows the school system is set to spend $6.96 million on general administration salaries this year, an increase of more than $200,000 over last year and almost $800,000 since 2008.

Funding for salaries in all other departments has been reduced since 2008, including in instruction, which is down 21 percent, she found. Her analysis also shows the costs of administrative salaries peaked at $7.6 million in 2010 and dropped to $6.6 million in 2011 before jumping back up the past two years.

Jester has worked as an actuarial consultant and has been considered a budget hawk since joining the school board in 2011.

DeKalb school board Chairman Eugene Walker said Tuesday he had not seen Jester’s analysis.

“But I’m amenable for looking at any pay scale to ensure equity,” Walker said.

He said the increased costs were not likely the result of individuals receiving raises.

“If there were raises, I’ve not been a part of the raises,” Walker said. “I will not vote for a raise for anyone until we can give raises for bus drivers, our food service workers and our teachers. They are they are the ones I am targeting for a raise.”

State Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, a vocal critical of the DeKalb school system’s spending, said he doesn’t doubt the accuracy of Jester’s analysis.

“I was told we have the largest central office in the country,” Millar said. “This is why I told Dr. Walker to reduce payroll and/or benefits to get the budget in balance and build up a surplus.”

Jester’s blog with her analysis is at http://whatsupwiththat.nancyjester.com.

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