Monday, May 28, 2012

DeKalb County Schools: budget woes, Fernbank Science Center at risk

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Last Wednesday, the AJC reported that DeKalb County School System's Superintendent presented a dire picture of the system's budget to the DCSS Board of Education. One big concern is that Superintendent Atkison
"...wants to raise the tax rate by 2 mills while also increasing the student-teacher ratio by three per classroom. She and her staff revealed Wednesday that the DeKalb school district must close a $73 million gap between projected revenues and planned expenses. The gap is a result of a drop in property values in the county, plus a rise in health care and other costs, among other things." 
Following up on Friday, the AJC focused on how proposed budget cuts currently include shutting down Fernbank Science Center (FSC):

"The decades-old institution, owned and operated by the DeKalb County public school district, has offered a hands-on education to students and other visitors from across metro Atlanta and elsewhere. However, it might close, under a recommendation Thursday by the school board’s budget committee. Fernbank Science Center, which includes a planetarium, is near the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, which is operated by a separate nonprofit. 
At an annual cost of $4.7 million, the building and its 56 full-time employees now are looking like a luxury to school officials. They are struggling with a $73 million deficit, and may have to cut teachers and school days to balance the budget."

N.B. Fernbank Science Center (FSC) is operated by DCSS, and is independent from the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. See Fernbank Museum's history page for how the two are connected. Fernbank Forest had been managed by the FSC but as of June 2012 will revert to the Museum's control as their 48-year arrangement expires.

These reports have triggered spirited discussion in various blogs such as Decatur Metro and the AJC's Getting Schooled.

If you want to share your thoughts or concerns with the DCSS Superintendent or the DeKalb Board of Education, DeKalb School Watch Two (a blog that focuses primarily on DCSS issues) has one-click email links on the right margin.

Also note that the DCSS Board is scheduled for a budget meeting on Wednesday, May 30 (this link includes DCSS's meeting schedule and some meeting minutes; BOE member Nancy Jester has some of her own meeting notes available through her own blog.). DCSS meetings are broadcast on PDS-TV24.