This story has been updated.
DeKalb County, GA — Mask? Check. Roster? Check. Salary? Unknown.
Teachers began preparing their classrooms this week in DeKalb County School District, but the school board has not approved the district’s roughly $2 billion proposed budget. Without a budget, teachers have no idea how much they’re making for the school year, which begins Aug. 2.
Teachers are also limited on how much they can spend to ready classrooms.
“My school can’t buy supplies that teachers are requesting to start the year because the budget hasn’t passed,” said one DeKalb County elementary school teacher. “Every time I ask the school bookkeeper for something, the answer is, ‘I can’t order until the budget passes and funds are allocated.’ I don’t even have a white board in my classroom.”
Teachers sign a contract in the spring to work the next school year. Legally, the school system is required to lock-in a salary at the same rate. But in 2020-21, teachers’ salaries were scaled down during virtual learning and subject to calendar reduction days. In DCSD, salaries are on a step system, based on education, certifications and years of experience.
Without an approved budget, teachers do not know if their salaries will return to 2019 rates or continue at the lower rates from 2020. DCSD is Georgia’s third-largest district, employing more than 7,000 teachers, according to the district.
School board member Allyson Gevertz wrote on Facebook: “Our board will meet again on Aug. 9 to continue the July meeting and consider the budget. In the meantime, CFO [Charles] Burbridge reassured us that salary step increases would be retroactive July 1.”
A school system cannot legally operate without an approved budget.
By law, Georgia demands each public school system approve a budget by the start of its fiscal year, typically July 1. If a local school board does not adopt a budget by July 1, the board must adopt a spending resolution, according to O.C.G.A. 20-2-167.
DCSD school board met on July 12, but the budget was deferred. A virtual town hall meeting was canceled July 27 due to “technical issues and power outages.” The school board will continue budget discussion on Aug. 9. DCSD adopted a resolution in July to continue operating at a pared-down level until the final budget is approved.
Gevertz said that budgeting has been more complicated than ever before. This year, the district is changing to a model called zero-based budgeting.
“This budget is rooted in the priorities of the district,” she wrote. “Instead of tweaking the FY21 budget, CFO Burbridge started from scratch (part of Zero Based Budgeting) and asked divisions to build budgets based on our vision for the DCSD graduate and our strategic goals, such as, ‘Student success with equity and access.’ The Board’s 2019-2024 Strategic Plan was developed by stakeholders, not by Mr. Burbridge or Ms. Watson-Harris. School boards set goals for superintendents based on the strategic plan and that’s what our board did. This is the first time I’ve seen our budget priorities so directly aligned with strategic plan goals.”
The budget was developed by the Superintendent and her team, she said in a message to Tucker Observer following the publication of this article.
Calls to central office and school board members by Decaturish were not returned.
Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify a statement made on a school board member’s Facebook page. The clarification was made after the board member contacted the Tucker Observer.
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