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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.

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.

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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

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Campaign Reception in Support of Nancy Jester

Campaign Reception in Support of Nancy Jester
Please Join Us
Honorable Eric Johnson
Brigadier General Denis Shortal, Dunwoody City Councilman
Senator Josh McKoon
Representative Tom Taylor
J. Max Davis, Mayor of Brookhaven
Bate Mattison, Brookhaven City Council Member
Todd and Kimberly Cochran
Molly Dye
Shawn Keefe
Eero and Angela Maki
Donna and Terry Nall, Dunwoody City Councilman
John and Lauren Oselette
Melanie Stockwell
Rich Thompson
Terri and Doug Thompson, Dunwoody City Councilman
Stefan and Lisa Victory
___________________________________________________
Monday December 9, 2013
5:00pm – 7:00pm
Café Intermezzo
4505 Ashford-Dunwoody Road
Dunwoody, Georgia 30346
____________________________________________________
Suggested Contribution Levels
Host $1,000 ~ Friend $500 ~ Attendee $250 (per couple)
_____________________________________________________
Kindly RSVP to Robyn Lynch
______________________________________________________
Make Checks Payable to:
Nancy Jester for State School Superintendent
2472 Jett Ferry Road, Suite 400, Box 177 – Dunwoody, GA – 30338
Nancy Jester
2472 Jett Ferry Road
Dunwoody, Georgia 30338
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Georgia Supreme Court Upholds OCGA §20-2-73

On Monday, the Georgia Supreme Court released a 47-page opinion upholding the constitutionality of the law providing for the removal of local boards of education. I am thankful for the closure this opinion now provides the citizens and parents of DeKalb County. At every turn I opposed the proliferation of legal entanglements, including this case. As a matter of principle, I do not believe children and taxpayers are well served by spending more money on lawyers and political concerns.

While the Supreme Court’s ruling is one step down the path to improving education in DeKalb, it is just the beginning. Georgia must implement an effective and meaningful system of quality assurance for education. As the Georgia Supreme Court stated today, “(T) he State has a substantial interest in ensuring that those local boards function competently and in a manner that does not imperil the education or future prospects of the students enrolled in the school systems.” Every state that borders Georgia has a higher graduation rate and spends less per pupil. Georgia’s graduation rate stands at 67% and that number is proof we have imperiled the education and future prospects of too many of our children.

The Supreme Court further reminds us that, “The Constitution makes public education not only the business of local jurisdictions, but also the State as a whole.” We must demand more vigorous oversight at the state level. There must be consequences for districts that fail our children and fail to safeguard the public’s money. States like Virginia and Texas have strong state public accountability models and so should Georgia.

I am thankful and relieved the Supreme Court decision is now behind us. We have more work ahead. I hope that you’ll join me in this effort.

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The Real Story of Per Pupil Spending

In October, the Marietta Daily Journal published an article I wrote about Common Core, Common Core is No Path to Prosperity. Subsequently, Politifact ran a piece examining my comments about Georgia’s aggregate spending on education.  They confirmed that, indeed, Georgia does spend in the top ten on education in the nation.  Click here to review the U.S. Census data on that.  The Politifact article went onto discuss per pupil spending by state – a topic that I did not address.  Their point was that if one reviews per pupil spending, Georgia’s ranking drops significantly.  They further indicate that ranking drops, “when adjusted for regional costs of living…”.  The citation embedded in their article for this claim doesn’t given the adjusted per pupil data, rank or methodology used for adjusting the figures.  It’s fair to assume that their per pupil spending data is adjusted using CPI information by region (their stated level of adjustment).

I was pleased that Politifact noted that my fact on aggregate spending was correct.  Pursuant to their further critique, they would have preferred I discuss per pupil spending.  The main reason I did not discuss per pupil spending is there are significant differences in the wage structures for education professionals and their benefits between states.  The largest components of costs in K-12 education are salaries and benefits so adjusting each state relative to each other would be necessary for an accurate comparison.

I downloaded the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most current Occupational Employment Statistics to gather salary/wage data for each state.  I isolated those occupational profile codes specific to K-12 education in each state.  I averaged these wages to determine an average salary.  I then compared this average salary to Georgia’s average salary.  As you would expect, some states have significantly higher salaries than Georgia.  These states are often those that we think of as having a higher cost of living.  For example, adjusted against Georgia’s salaries, New York’s educational salaries are 31% higher; Massachusetts are 17% higher.

After developing a measure between Georgia and every other state, I used this to adjust each state’s per pupil spending relative to Georgia’s and then ranked the states’ adjusted per pupil spending.  The result is that Georgia’s per pupil spending is in the middle of the pack.  We rank 25th in per pupil spending on instruction and 28th in total per pupil spending.

I’ll leave you with this.  Every state that borders Georgia has a higher graduation rate.  And, every state that borders Georgia spends less per pupil than Georgia.  You can go west to Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas and you will find that they too, also have a higher graduation rate and all but Louisiana spend less per pupil than Georgia.

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