What to know about Atlanta Public Schools’ 2016 SPLOST

Data specialist Jennifer Peebles and staff writer Rose French contributed to this report.

Coming soon: An exclusive AJC analysis of decades of SPLOST spending finds stark disparities in some districts.

Atlanta school district leaders are asking voters to approve a sales tax to fund more than $464 million in planned school renovations, repairs, construction, technology purchases and other spending.

The one-cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST, would replace the current SPLOST that funds capital projects in local schools. Fulton, DeKalb, Atlanta Public Schools and city of Decatur schools all have education SPLOSTs up for vote this month.

Early voting runs through Friday. Election Day is Tuesday.

Nearly half of the $208 million Atlanta Public Schools would spend on school renovations if this new SPLOST is approved would go to Grady High School and schools that feed into Grady.

Those schools house students from some of the district's wealthiest families but have some of the district's worst conditions and most crowded classrooms, according to a district analysis. Although schools in other neighborhoods have extra space, Superintendent Meria Carstarphen has said redistricting to ease crowding was not an option.

The district plans to spend $100 million on renovations to turn the now-closed Howard High School — where Martin Luther King Jr. once attended school — into a middle school and to improve and expand Grady High School and Morningside Elementary School.

Atlanta has enough classroom space, parent Shawnna Hayes-Tavares told the school board earlier this month.

“Because we don’t have enough courage to cross over racial lines, we do a disservice to the community. We need to make sure before we spend a hundred million dollars on Grady, we’re doing the right thing,” she said.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of SPLOST spending across the region found that most of Atlanta’s past SPLOST construction and renovation spending went to schools that serve mostly low-income students. That’s in contrast to some other districts where most new schools were built to serve students from richer families.

In addition to the work in the Grady neighborhood, Atlanta’s SPLOST spending plan also includes:

  • $49.9 million for renovations and construction at the low-performing schools APS has targeted for intensive improvement efforts;
  • $8.1 million to ensure all high schools have field houses and artificial turf fields;
  • $47 million for technology purchases, including $10 million for phase one of a project to give middle and high school students their own digital devices; and;
  • $5 million to upgrade security cameras and fire alarms.