Hey Nancy,

What's Up With That

If you have a question and would like to ask Nancy "What's up with that?", please email Nancy@NancyJester.com.

Archive for the 'Georgia Education' Category

What is Grover Norquist Referring To?

Hey Nancy,

Local Boards of Education are required to publish tax and expenditure data. See https://ted.cviog.uga.edu/ted/Default.do . Don’t know what Grover Norquist is referring to, but it appears [you are] campaigning on something that is already there.

What’s up with that?

Del Parker
Accounting Manager at Ga Dept of Education


  1. I hope this offers clarity:

    I am advocating for adopting a system of financial integrity indicators that are rated and disclosed via a report generated by the State DOE. I would like to see us adopt a system similar to the Financial Integrity Reporting System of Texas (FIRST). This system collects data on 20 indicators of fiscal health for each district in Texas (they have over 1000). Each indicator is scored and a composite FIRST rating is then given to the district. Districts are required to hold a public meeting to discuss and disclosure their FIRST rating. Furthermore, Texas has a list of consequences for districts with poor performance records, including poor fiscal management. We have nothing like this in the state of Georgia.

    Here is what the Texas Education Agency says of the FIRST:

    The purpose of the financial accountability rating system (Texas Administrative Code (TAC), Title 19, § 109.1001) is to ensure that school districts and open-enrollment charter schools are held accountable for the quality of their financial management practices and achieve improved performance in the management of their financial resources. The system is designed to encourage Texas public schools to manage their financial resources better in order to provide the maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes. The system will also disclose the quality of local management and decision-making processes that impact the allocation of financial resources in Texas public schools.

    I also advocate for on-line check registers. Most districts in Texas now have these so that taxpayers can see timely data for each financial transaction. They can find this information easily on the district’s website. There is no need to hunt for data or only have access to old information.

    The Cato Institute released a report titled “Cracking the Books” in which Georgia received an F for reporting of educational expenditures. I agree that we need to improve our financial reporting and disclosure for our educational tax dollars. School districts are not even required to hold a public review of their proposed budget. (If there is a change to the millage rate they must hold meetings about that.) This year HB 886 was introduced to require school districts to hold 2 public meetings prior to passing the budget, requires the budget be placed online, and requires that a line item budget be made available upon request at no charge.

    Another missing aspect in Georgia’s stewardship of the public’s money is that we do not determine the efficacy of each dollar spent. Other states are performing studies where they are “studying the intersection of academic progress and spending for efficiencies in public education.” Georgia should be doing this as well.

    The Georgia DOE website does not offer an intuitive and helpful system of data that can combine relevant and timely information on the finances of each district. Georgia’s citizens should be able to access a report that not only has financial data but also the correlating achievement and staffing data. This will allow Georgia’s citizens to see the results they are getting for the dollars they are spending.

    The bottom line is that HOW we spend the taxpayers’ money will drive results. We are not even measuring this. We make getting information difficult and often provide old data. We must do better.

posted by Nancy Jester in Finance,Georgia Education,Nancy Jester and have Comments Off

Shrink Bureaucracy and Help Teachers and Taxpayers

 
StaffingSurge

posted by Nancy Jester in Georgia Education and have Comments (4)

Georgia Loses Money Earmarked For Teacher Merit Pay

With all of the talk about recent weather and traffic events, we’ve lost an important education story.

Georgia, has now become the first and only state to forfeit Race to the Top (RT3) grant money.   Officials in Georgia were warned last July to address failures in implementing a new teacher evaluation system or lose almost $10 million in funding for a teacher merit pay system.

In the letter regarding the forfeiture, federal officials stated:

On September 16, 2013, I notified the State of my intent to withhold $9,904,629, pursuant to sections 454(a)(1) and 455 of the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA) (20 U.S.C. § § 1234c(a)(1) and 1234d), until the State submitted a credible plan detailing its strategy for coming into compliance with this section of its Race to the Top grant. To date, the State has not submitted such a plan. ….. To date, the OALJ has not received an application for a hearing nor have I received a written show cause response. As a result, the Department is withholding $9,904,629 of Georgia’s Race to the Top grant award, effective with this letter.

I’m not a fan of some of the aspects of RT3 but if the state commits to it, one has an obligation to manage it properly.  Whether you like RT3 or not, this is an embarrassment at the national level for Georgia.  The headline draws attention to the poor state of affairs regarding education management in our state.  Furthermore, it removes funding that would have gone to our best performing teachers.

Georgia’s Department of Education created the very evaluation system they failed to implement.  The evaluation system had problems from the start.   The length of the 358-page evaluation handbook is a clue that the system may have failed under the weight of its own complexity.

Given that it is National School Choice Week, the story of a failed evaluation system is ironic.  The simplicity and equilibrium of parent choice in education as a metric and driver of success is all the more compelling, compared to the byzantine and lengthy teacher evaluation system created by bureaucrats.

Georgians deserve more choice and less bureaucratic failure.

posted by Nancy Jester in Georgia Education and have Comments (4)

DeKalb Accreditation

I am pleased to hear the DeKalb school system’s accreditation status has been upgraded from “probation” to “warned”.  I worked diligently to shine light on the poor fiscal management of DeKalb.  Some of my work was even cited in the SACS report from 2012.   Clearly DeKalb still has a long way to go.  Academic achievement and growth in many schools is unacceptable.  DeKalb’s graduation rate, at 58.9%, is far too low.  Of the 25 high schools in DeKalb, 8 have graduation rates below 50%, while only 4 have rates above 75%.  All four of these schools are specialty or magnet schools. 

I appreciate that SACS finally recognized that DeKalb needed some sort of intervention.  The entire episode exposes the structural weaknesses in our state’s accountability model.  While SACS can provide a useful and supplemental service via their third party accreditation products, Georgia must not continue to abdicate it’s role in holding districts accountable for their results and financial management.  AdvancED/SACS has 5 standards for school district accreditation.  While these standards are meant to drive improvement in various processes for a school district, not one standard measures outcomes for children. There is no minimum graduation rate or achievement level necessary to earn accreditation. 

In many states, the accreditation status of schools is determined by their Department of Education or comparable public agency.  Texas and Virginia both accredit their schools based on defined, measurable performance results.  Their graduation rates are 87% and 89% respectively.  These states are rewarding success with autonomy and no longer accept failure without consequences.  Additionally, Texas has a Financial Integrity system that has 20 indicators that measure the financial health of a district and push money to be spent in the classroom.   

From the Texas Education Agency’s website:

“The purpose of the financial accountability rating system is to ensure that school districts and open-enrollment charter schools are held accountable for the quality of their financial management practices and achieve improved performance in the management of their financial resources.  The system is designed to encourage Texas public schools to manage their financial resources better in order to provide the maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes.”

Georgia has 0 financial integrity measurements for our school districts.

If Georgia had a system for financial integrity, like Texas, DeKalb county could not have engaged in the deceptive budgeting practices I uncovered.  School districts would be forced to allocate money to instruction and not a bloated bureaucracy.  If Georgia’s Department of Education had an accreditation system like that of Texas or Virginia, our schools would be rated and accredited based on measurable performance outcomes. 

I am running to be the State School Superintendent to bring these types of structural reforms to our state.

posted by Nancy Jester in AdvancED SACS,DeKalb County School District,Georgia Education,Georgia State School Superintendent Race,Nancy Jester and have Comments Off

Education Spending and Results in Georgia

On the campaign trail recently I’ve been talking about how much Georgia spends on education and how that relates to outcomes for our children.

I put together a spreadsheet for you so you can see Georgia’s spending on education from Fiscal Years 2005 through the current Fiscal Year 2014. I have graphed Georgia’s education spending, the federal money Georgia spends on education and the total budget for our state. Here’s that graph:

GeorgiaTotalBudget

Notice anything?

Georgia’s total budget took quite a hit from 2008 to 2010 (the top yellow line). Georgia’s state funding for education dipped during that same time frame (the blue line) but took nowhere near the hit that the entire state was forced to endure. Additionally, the federal government stepped in and made up for most of the decline with stimulus funds. The grey line shows total state and federal education spending.

What’s the real story behind Georgia’s education system and funding? Every state that borders Georgia spends less per pupil and has a higher graduation rate. For the record, since 2012 (for the 2010-11 school year) the graduation rate is calculated the same in every state. See my chart below for the data – border states are highlighted in peach and other notable states are highlighted in blue. It’s worth noting our two lowest spending border states have the highest graduation rates – Tennessee and North Carolina.
GradRatesPerPupilSpendingMap
GraduationRates
Sources and Citations

posted by Nancy Jester in DeKalb County School District,Finance,Georgia Education and have Comments (2)
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