Atlanta Public Schools Seeks Public Feedback on Proposed Spending Plan for 2017-2018 School Year

The Budget Commission of the Atlanta Board of Education met on Thursday afternoon to review the tentative budget proposal for the 2017-2018 school year. Four community meetings will be held, starting April 27, to garner feedback from the public on the spending plan.

Atlanta Public Schools (APS) will host a series of community meetings to receive feedback from parents and tax payers on its proposed General Fund Budget for the 2017-2018 school year (Fiscal Year 2018).

The meeting schedule is as follows:

School Location Date Time
Mays High School Auditorium April 27, 2017 6 – 7 p.m.
Burgess-Peterson Elementary School Auditorium May 2, 2017 6 – 7 p.m.
Long Middle School Auditorium May 11, 2017 6 – 7 p.m.
Sutton Middle School Auditorium May 18, 2017 6 – 7 p.m.

Proposed budget for FY2018 is $777 million
The proposed spending plan of $777 million is $15 million more than the current budget (FY2017), does not call for a tax increase and includes a 1.5 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) for all school employees. Other key aspects of the proposed FY2018 budget include:

  • APS continues to reduce administrative costs while increasing spending in the classroom. The proposed budget includes about $8 million in cuts to central office administration while $10.5 million (an increase of $3.5 million from FY2017) is devoted to the continuation of the district’s signature programming (STEM, International Baccalaureate and College and Career Prep), a key component of the district’s cluster model and its effort to improve student achievement.
  • Principals will have even more autonomy and flexibility with their individual school budgets as APS is taking part in a pilot program – commonly referred to as Fund 150 – that allows them to combine federal Title I funds with their general fund school allotment.
  • The budget was crafted as the district continues to be financially challenged by an increasing pension fund and rising healthcare costs.

Community meetings allow for public understanding, input
The scheduled community meetings are a part of APS’ budget-building process. The first meeting (Thursday, April 27) will be held prior to the May meeting of the Atlanta Board of Education (Monday, May 1) where the spending plan will be presented to board members for tentative adoption. Final adoption will take place at the June meeting – Monday, June 5.

“The community meetings are an opportunity for our constituents to learn about our budgeting process, find out some of the key financial challenges and parameters, and provide us with feedback,” said APS Chief Financial Officer Robert Morales, who will deliver the presentation at the meetings with APS Budget Executive Director Lisa Bracken. “At the end of the day, we want to ensure that our process is transparent, professional, and efficient and provides all of our students with a world-class education.”

“When we begin any budget discussion we approach it from the standpoint of what is best for kids. This budget proposal reflects that philosophy,” APS Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen said. “It is balanced, equitable, and student-centered and focuses our resources in the areas of our greatest needs. We will always put students and schools first in everything we do.”

Public Input Sought on District Budget Parameters and Scenarios for 2016-2017 School Year

2016-17 School Budget Community Meetings
Atlanta Public Schools will host four community meetings to gain feedback on the proposed budget for the 2016-2017 school year.

By Seth Coleman

Atlanta Public Schools is continuing to advance through the district’s budgeting process, which began in September 2015, with the development of the budget parameters for the 2016-2017 school year. Now the district needs feedback from you.

During the March 7  Atlanta Board of Education meeting, APS Chief Financial Officer Robert Morales presented a plan to board members that aligns spending with the budget parameters and various budget scenarios. APS has scheduled four public hearings to provide more details on the district’s budget-building process and receive public comment on its Fiscal Year 2017 General Fund Budget scenarios.

The meeting schedule is as follows:

Thursday, March 10 6-7 p.m. Therrell High School Auditorium
3099 Panther Trail, SW
Thursday, March 17 6-7 p.m. Sylvan Hills Middle School Auditorium
1461 Sylvan Road, SW
Thursday, March 24 6-7 p.m. North Atlanta High School Auditorium
4111 Northside Parkway, NW
Thursday, March 31 6-7 p.m. Inman Middle School Auditorium
774 Virginia Avenue, NE

The Fiscal Year 2017 budget is expected to be presented to board members for tentative adoption on Monday, April 11.

“This is an opportunity for you to learn the basics of our budgeting process, receive an overview of our current budget challenges and parameters, and provide your feedback,” Morales said. “Our goal is to facilitate a transparent and well-organized budget development process as part of the larger commitment to provide a world-class education to all students.”

For more information on the proposed budget parameters and scenarios, click here.

Atlanta Board of Education Hires New CFO

ATLANTA – Robert Morales is the new chief financial officer (CFO) for Atlanta Public Schools (APS). The Atlanta Board of Education voted to accept APS Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen’s recommendation to hire Morales at its legislative meeting June 1.

Robert Morales
Robert Morales

Morales has been the CFO at Fulton County Schools for the last six years. Prior to Fulton County, he held the same position at Cobb County Schools, the District of Columbia Schools and Greenville County Schools in South Carolina.

“A certified administrator of school finance and operations, Robert’s leadership and expertise in charter system operations for a large urban school district will be a tremendous asset to APS as the district prepares to submit its application to operate as a charter system to the Georgia Department of Education this summer,” said Dr. Carstarphen.

Morales will oversee total budgets of $996 million for the district.

“Atlanta Public Schools is heading in a new direction that is laser-focused on its mission to prepare students for college and career. I am excited about the opportunity to work with Dr. Carstarphen and her team to achieve the district’s mission and goals and to continue to strengthen the financial foundation of APS,” said Morales.

Morales will join APS on July 1, 2015. Nader Sohrab, who served as interim CFO since March 13, will return to his role of deputy CFO next month.

About Atlanta Public Schools

Atlanta Public Schools is one of the largest school districts in the state of Georgia, serving approximately 50,000 students across 106 learning sites. The district is organized into nine K-12 clusters with 87 schools, 17 charter schools and two citywide single-gender academies, where students are offered rigorous instructional programs that foster success in school and life. For more information, visit

Young Middle students experience financial literacy at JA BizTown

Young MIddle School sixth-graders at JA BizTown for financial literacy program

Jean Childs Young Middle School sixth-grade students participated in the Junior Achievement and Chick-fil-A Foundation’s Discovery Center BizTown, located at the Georgia World Congress Center. For four weeks, students focused on the financial literacy curriculum provided by Junior Achievement before experiencing the culminating event at JA BizTown, an interactive marketplace representing the local business community, including financial services, media, telecommunications, utilities, manufacturing and more.

IMG_20140109_113354_939Students received unique job assignments and worked in teams at their assigned businesses. Each student completed a full business day of developing a budget and making purchasing decisions. This interactive simulation provided students an opportunity to learn about finance and careers, and to transform into sole decision-makers and owners of their personal financial success.

“The absence of financial literacy often leads to students making poor financial decisions and developing poor financial habits,” said Dr. Kelvin Griffin, Young Middle School principal. “We are committed to our students using the financial knowledge they acquire to manage their future financial resources effectively for a lifetime of financial well-being.”


APS Students ‘Take Care of Business’ at Junior Achievement’s Chick-fil-A Foundation Discovery Center


Coan Middle School students were the first from APS to experience the Junior Achievement (JA) and Chick-fil-A Foundation’s, Discovery Center BizTown.  JA BizTown is designed as an interactive marketplace representing the local business community, including financial services, media, telecommunications, utilities, manufacturing and more.  In this interactive financial literacy program, students received unique job assignments as an employee, tax payer and consumer in their assigned businesses.

IMG_6449Coan students were engaged in their roles and worked as a team to develop a budget, make purchasing decisions, and deposit pay checks. Their business day included everything from staff meetings to shopping at the businesses.

“Working as a CFO is kind of hard. You have to write checks and pay bills, and it felt very real. I would like to do this again and try being a physician next time.”
Aaliyah Lewis, 6th grade, CFO at Emory University

“It’s been really fun having my own job and getting my own paycheck. I had to do a lot of paperwork, check on my employees, and give customers what they need. I had to learn about the company, and how to deposit and write checks. It’s been a rush, but it’s been fun.”
Derrick Dorsey, 6th grade, CEO of Newell Rubbermaid







Sixth and seventh graders from all APS middle schools will have an opportunity to participate in JA BizTown or JA Finance Park during the school year.

For more information, visit Junior Achievement’s Chick-fil-A Foundation Discovery Center.

LIVE BLOG: Special Legislative Meeting – June 6, 2013

Thanks for joining our live blog from the Board of Education Special Legislative Meeting.

8:50pm  We are switching over from Twitter to the blog to make it a little easier for everyone to follow along.  The meeting started about 35 minutes ago.

Board and CFO Chuck Burbridge are in the midst of discussing teacher allocations and classroom size for the proposed FY14 budget.


Burbridge: A teacher costs 80K on average, no matter where we get the revenue.  The cost is still 80k.

Kinanne: Looking at what we allocated in payroll for last year and this staffing allocation has us at 63 less…

Burbridge: It doesn’t affect QBE.  If we have all rookie teachers, the augmentation will be minimal.  Your base is based on your student count, not the number of teachers you hire. Calculted on March student counts, so its done.

Kinnane: But the student count, the # of teachers is related to that, is the number we had last year…is that at all…

Burbridge: That number is the number we get starting July 1.  It’s based on the march student count.  Our base is at 47,000 students. Those are fixed numbers. We’ve already reported the tenure of our force based on last year.

McDaniel: Is this sheet used to calculate the total number of teachers, or if we approved this budget as it would there be 17 fewer teachers at Mays next year?

Burbridge: This budget is based on 1761 teachers.  I can’t tell you if there would be 17 fewer at Mays, will that actually happen? There is a difference between budgeting for it and implementing it.  This is what the allocation suggests.  There are other teachers that will be added into this.  Even when added they may decided how they will use those teachers.

Davis: This is a starting point.  Last year we were changing teachers in October and we hope to get that work done earlier this year.  The number of teachers is going to change.  I say these things and you don’t want to hear them, but this is not an exact science, it’s an art.

Burbridge: And that art takes place between individual principals and the teachers.  This is really an initial allocation based on the formulas we have available to us for the 1761 teachers.

Burks: So this situation would force a Mays, if they wanted to have smaller classes, to use their Title I dollars for teachers.  Starting day 1, they would be here.

Burbridge: Or special teachers.. EIP

Burks: I saw 3 schedule changes last year, that is a lot.

Davis: That is why I’ve said we want to get that done early this year.  We would like to get the numbers done within the first 3 weeks of school.

Muhammad: What about those year round schools that start next month? How are we factoring them into this equation.

Davis: The interaction with them would simply be sooner.  We are trying to do what took 3-4 months last year, within the first month this year.

Kinnane: I can’t even believe that we think we should start day one with these numbers.

McDaniel expresses concern over this staff allocation being used as an actual example of what would happen on day one.

Burbridge says that when the actual distributions are done they traditionally look different than what they actually end up with on payroll.  “This is a planning number to get an overall budget amount.  It is hard to believe that we would have such dramatic swings between what we allocated one year with a waiver and what we would allocate this year with the same waiver.”

Meister: The state is telling us we are going to get 2091 for core teachers…

Burbridge: It’s actually 2900.  That is if we were paying our teachers 30k, but we dont.  That’s a computation to get a resource dollar amount.  They are just computing resources.  There is no expectation that we could have 2900 teachers based on the dollars they are giving us. That sheet is not used to dictate how many people you should have.

Kinnane: Once again, these numbers we’ve been asking for from principals for each school…was that done…

Davis: Either February or April that requests went out to principals.  Meetings were held with principals.  I can’t tell you the degree of agreement or disagreement, what was changed but they didn’t happen just within the last month. These numbers are not suddenly put in front of principals.  I know that discussions have taken place in principal meetings. These are not surprises or unknowns to principals.

Kinnane: My question wasn’t whether there were surprises or unknowns, but whether there was input.  This information was shown to them but was information given back.

Davis: You have to start somewhere, I either give them to you or you give them to me. If your question is ‘Is there an opportunity for them to evidence a concern,’ the answer is yes, there have been opportunities and venues for those discussions.  We will staff appropriately using whatever waivers we have and we want to get them in early during the first 3 weeks of school.

Kinnane: And I think that’s good, but that’s for tweaking.  I can’t imagine we can go to any HS principal and tell them they are losing this many teachers…

McDaniel asks about the 41 number on the allocation sheet for Grady.

Burbridge: We pulled this from a mathematical formula.  This is not based on conversations with principals.

McDaniel: If you lined up Ms. Waldon’s number with 1761, could we get the numbers school by school.

Burbridge: We can get those numbers for you. The averages we have in the FY14 formula show that our smallest classroom sizes are at ES 21.1, MS is 28.3 and the largest would be 30.4 at HS. Current staffing has our smallest classes at HS level, average 23.6, ES is 24.8 and MS is 27.7.  FY14 allocation of teachers is similar to actual of FY13.  Question is, should HS classes be smaller than your ES classes.  That’s something that can be discussed and you still have time without changing the overall budget.

McDaniel mentions that with the graduation rate, that’s a discussion you would want to have.  Burbridge adds that you would also want to know whether a child could read at the elementary level.

Burbridge: Example, you take a Therrell HS of Health & Science…they had on payroll 11 teachers, they are allocated 10.  You divide with student count and end up with 23 students per teacher. But b/c its a High School, when you add in specialty teachers, we may add in another 8 speciality teachers, ending up with class sizes that may approach the teens, 13 per class.  Whereas when you add at elementary, you still have that class size and specials won’t reduce your core 1st grade size.  And as the superintendent indicated, there is still that work being done out there with the principals.

Kinnane: What did Ms. Waldon use for the staffing allocation?

Burks: I thin what we heard, is the intention is to start the year off with this piece of paper and then adjust the first three weeks.

McDaniel: I don’t think that’s what we were told.  It would be reasonable for someone to say that the math says Grady is down 18 teachers but we negotiate and then they are down 2 teachers.  I don’t think anyone has said we would start off the school year with this exact number of teachers at each school.

Burks says she will not feel comfortable approving the budget without a better understanding of how the schools will be staffed.

Davis says that what is being memorialized is not the allocation the Board approved last year, it is where the schools ended up last year.

Meister: What type of waiver will this require?

Burbridge: +5, which gives you the same teacher allocation as…

Davis: Actually there are 40 teachers difference.

BOE asks what it would cost to add 40 teachers.

Burbridge: This piece of paper is based on the waiver +5

Davis: Up to +5 is already reduced by 40 teachers

Meister: I think what we were driving up during this whole budget process is to get to +3 and in my opinion there has been a total disregard to what the board requested.

Davis: I believe you were told of the costs to get to each of those levels.

McDaniel: Where we got to in the end was how we get classrooms that looks next year like it did last year (in terms of size).  In my mind, the budget and the policy is driving where we are trying to get to as opposed to the waiver. If we did a waiver of 2, some schools would look better than they did last year, and some would look worse.  We can’t say the mathematical formula is driving strategy and policy.

YJohnson: You mentioned Ms. Burks about what day one looks like, in my mind you wouldn’t know until day one…is that not the case?

Davis: We would have an allocation there for the kids.

YJohnson: When would we have that day one number? Would we approve something now with the understanding that we would…

Davis: There is a change in the mix, but the mix doesn’t have to change.  This just has to be remixed, especially when we have a net decrease in the number of students.  The logic of the state allocations says that classes should be bigger at higher levels, before any waivers.  We have lower sizes at higher levels.

Burks: My frustration…if these were the numbers given to February or March and there has been conversations, I guess I’m struggling with why no one has said what the numbers are in the conversation.  They’ve seen this as early as February or March and we have not had indication since we’ve been having budget meetings and this has been the hot topic and no one has said these are not the numbers.  This is the first time I’m kind  of hearing…

Davis: I think principal discussions are over.

Burks: If they are over I think we should have had different numbers.

Davis: I’ll check.

McDaniel: My understanding is this came from finance as a simple mathematical numbers, C&I did not give you these numbers…

Burbridge: We received these numbers from the demographers in February and are used for budgeting but do not reflect actual allocations.  Budget planning last year for Grady was 39, but they got to 60.  How they got to 60 is something that happens outside of the budgeting process.

McDaniel: We are making decisions on how many teachers we want to have in the system.

Burks: If I’ve seen these numbers, I’m not sure I would allow these numbers to be distributed.

McDaniel: We’ve asked finance to give us more details, from my perspective what we’re trying to do as a Board is decide how many teachers we want in the system.  It seems to me that we are now allocating in the budget process, give her take a few, that we had last year. From a budget process, we’ve gotten to where the Board can make a decision.  Mr. Davis we would ask you to make the philosophical decision as it relates to class sizes.

Burks: I think the waivers we’ve approved at the elementary schools are higher +5, as opposed to high schools +3 (in response to Supt. Davis comment about a district trend in the past towards small high school classes).

Burks: This actually decreases the number of teachers.

McDaniel: Yes, we have a fewer number of students and fewer number of teachers.  The overall number of teachers is 23 less.  (4 less once you factor in adjustment of Parks MS closing).

Burks: We won’t have an answer to this tonight, but I think the question is, when will we have an answer.

McDaniel: Mr. Burbridge do you have anything else regarding your presentation yesterday?

Burbridge says that other outstanding questions are continuing to be researched.

9:57pm Board is now going into executive session.

10:43pm Exec Session has ended

Burbridge gives a final recap.  The FY2014 general fund expenditure budget is $592,018,545.

McDaniel asks for clarification/conversation around class size, school by school as well as personnel savings during future budget discussions.

Burbridge is asked to explain calculation of 1761 teachers in FY14 proposed budget.  Formula is calulated at +5 over max for ES & MS and +3 over max for HS.

View all documents related to the FY14 budget here:

June 27th would be date for approval of final budget.

Burks: My last request would be to get some very strong talking points for the Board. There are some key things that need to be communicated effectively, security, bell changes….there are some very specific things that we need to do around the budget that includes talking points.

Vote taken. Opposed are Kinnane and Meister. Vote passes.

This ends our live blog for the evening.

10:52 – End of Blog