Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Final Report - Proposed Dunwoody Independent School District Financial Feasibility


Introduction and Summary of Conclusions

This report on the financial feasibility of forming a Dunwoody Independent School District was commissioned by the City of Dunwoody, through the Dunwoody Parents Concerned about Quality Education, a community group formed in 2013 to explore opportunities to improve public education in Dunwoody.

Dunwoody’s public school students (6,082 students in 2012) attend one of the seven public schools located within the city limits. All of these schools are currently under the management and supervision of the DeKalb County Public School District (97,297 students in 2012). Together, the seven Dunwoody schools comprise a relatively self-contained cluster that could conceivably be operated as an independent public school district.

The report is specifically designed to assess whether educational services provided to the recently founded City of Dunwoody by the DeKalb County School District could be provided more efficiently with a leaner organizational form. The question is whether a Dunwoody Independent School District (DISD) can potentially manage a single ‘cluster’ of Dunwoody schools (one high school, and ‘feeder’ middle school and elementary schools) and deliver the same or better district educational and management services at lower cost.

 Such organizational reform may be not only financially prudent but would facilitate the classroom-centered and child-centered operations without the organizational encumbrances of a district organized to serve 98,000 children. Significant changes in information technology have substantially altered the economies of scale arguments that previously argued for larger school districts. Smaller districts are consistent with educational reform that emphasizes child-centered education.

This report assesses the financial feasibility of a smaller Dunwoody Independent School District with analysis of the most detailed and accurate available data. We reallocate the sources of revenue and allocations of cost from the current consolidated DeKalb County School District (which now supervises Dunwoody schools) to project revenue and cost allocations as if a separate and independently controlled Dunwoody School District (DSD) had existed in 2012. We also reallocate resources based on the number of students who would transfer into schools within the new boundaries as well as students who are expected to move from private schools into the new DISD.

The Dunwoody schools are currently managed and controlled under the operational and financial umbrella of the DeKalb County School. If the Dunwoody cluster of schools were managed under a separate and independent school district, some current sources of revenue would follow students and schools to the new Dunwoody Independent School District (DISD). Other revenues would remain allocated to what we term the deconsolidated DeKalb County School District (DDCSD). The allocation of 2012 revenue to either the independent Dunwoody district or the deconsolidated DeKalb district depends on detailed and specific characteristics of the two student populations, supporting communities, and the experience and educational profile of the assigned teachers.

Likewise, the analysis reallocates the consolidated DeKalb County School District 2012 costs between an independent Dunwoody district and a deconsolidated DeKalb district. Using line-item cost detail, we calculated those operating costs of the DISD that are required for each new school, classroom, and student. These estimates of various fixed and variables costs allowed us to project cost shifts for students who would transfer to new schools across new boundaries and student currently in private schools who are projected to transfer to DISD.

This reallocation of revenues and costs (including projected costs of a new Dunwoody Independent School District central office) allows the conclusion that deconsolidation and formation of an independent school district is financially feasible for the City of Dunwoody. In fact, projected revenues for a separate Dunwoody Independent School District from local property tax allocations, state funding, and federal funding would have been $78.7 million in 2012 (based on student and community characteristics, teachers’ profiles and current laws and regulation). Costs of $37.8 million in 2012 would no longer have accrued to a deconsolidated DeKalb County School District, but would have fallen to a new Dunwoody district. Costs for operation of a Dunwoody central office and services are projected to be $10.3 million. On net, revenues for operations of an independent Dunwoody school district would exceed school and district operating costs by $30.7 million annually.

Reallocation also has consequences for a deconsolidated DeKalb School District. After significant wealth-reallocation transfer by state and federal authorities, a deconsolidated DeKalb would lose $77.3 million in revenue (out of a consolidated total of $863.6 million) and $50.5 million in costs. A loss in local revenues of $57.2 million is mitigated as state and federal funding grow as a share of total funding. The net reduction in resources available to DeKalb after deconsolidation is $26.8 million. This is the equivalent of $293 per student per year.

The detailed 25 page report can be found here.

Kelly McCutchen and Prof. Christine P. Ries1
November 18, 2013


John Heneghan said...

Dunwoody Crier - Study: Dunwoody school district would have $30 million surplus

Article above has numerous comments from Representative Tom Taylor and Senator Fran Millar.

Dunwoody Mom said...

John, question as I am unclear after reading the study:

Dunwoody’s public school students (6,0082 students in 2012) attend one of the seven public schools located within the city limits.

There is an extra digit somewhere in this student enrollment figure. Also, there are over 200 students attending Hightower that live within the Dunwoody city limits. Were these students included in the study?

John Heneghan said...

Mom, good questions but I do not have the answers as I just received the report late last night and was not involved in the details. I am sure the authors will be able to answer soon. Thanks

Robert Wittenstein said...

Yes, that is a typo. There are 6,008 students in the Dunwoody cluster.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Ok, sorry, the Hightower students are addressed in the study. I should have read the report completely before commenting.

GaryRayBetz said...

Sure go ahead with your plan, I'm sure our children miss being told how to think and live.

I'm certainly gratified that my children were able to attend the local Dunwoody schools before you all have a chance to destroy their spirit.

GaryRayBetz said...

As if growing up in the sterile white-bread environs of Dunwoody wasn’t soul crushing enough for our children, now you all want to insist that their school curriculum include only those opinions and theories promoted by the elders of the local hierarchy?

Mark my words, if you insist on local control the the first thing that will occur is you'll be holding hearings to change how evolution and the origin of life should be taught in Dunwoody's public high school science classes and add revisionist history classes that will insist that antebellum slavery wasn't all that abhorrent.

Robert Wittenstein said...

I think you are wrong. I don’t think a Dunwoody community school system would call for the type of Neanderthal policies you would find in a small Alabama town or in Arkansas or Texas.

I think, instead, you would be hearing calls for International Baccalaureate, or a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) focused curriculum.

There is an enormous amount of innovation going on in education around the use of technology and in new and better ways to set high standards for both students and teachers. Imagine what we could implement if we didn’t have to change an entrenched bureaucratic system.

While much of Dunwoody is conservative; my own experience is that it is Enlightened Conservatism (how is that for a new oxymoron?) not a conservatism that would call for the end of teaching evolution or the start of teaching bible studies or creationism.

As for going to school in a white-bread world; a Dunwoody Independent School System would be much more diverse than DeKalb is today. It would be 17 percent black, 17 percent Hispanic, 12 percent Asian and 26 percent of its students speak a language other than English at home.

Daughter of the Poet said...

From - "Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard"

Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learned to stray;
Along the cool sequestered vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

- Thomas Gray

John Heneghan said...

Thanks for the lively comments.

I rarely delete but this string went a little off topic for my taste. Behave and please be civil as I don't like deleting anything.

This item was cross posted on Peach Pundit by Rep Buzz Brockway.