Friday, January 22, 2010

Public School Accreditation Follies (II)

The announcement earlier in the month that the Warren County School District may lose its SACS accreditation again brought to my mind the dubious importance assigned to public school accreditation.

A couple of years ago, I pointed out that the Clayton County School District, the first Georgia public school system to lose its accreditation in some 40 years, did a better of educating its students than did the Clarke County School District. And yet the latter was in no danger of losing its accreditation. So, for the record, how does Warren County compare with Clarke County?

Per pupil expenditure FY 2009:
Warren County $10,606.05 (FTE 724)
Clarke County $11,248.22 (FTE 11,785)

Graduation rate 2008-2009:
Warren County 68.0%
Clarke County 63.3%

AYP 2009:
Warren County 66.7% (2 of 3 schools)
Clarke County 68.4% (13 of 19 schools

So, the Warren County School District is set to lose its accreditation, while that of the statistically similar Clarke County School District remains perfectly safe.

The Clayton County and Warren County school systems, or more precisely their students, are being punished for administrative lapses as opposed to poorly educating their students. It is true that the Clarke County School District brushed up against similar issues recently, but all concerned managed to make nice and the school system settled back into to the same old expensive mediocrity to which we have become accustomed.

Public school accreditation appears to primarily concern administrative procedures, having little if anything to do with actual student achievement. Thus, to my mind it remains a meaningless concept.

Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Curious Case of Mike Hamby (II)

This is old news, but still hilarious. It appears that the folks at Georgia Liberal and Blake at the Banner-Herald got into a pissing contest over Mike Hamby. Get up to speed by seeing here, here, and here (to get a feel for the tenor of the dispute, read the comments).

Yawn. More than a year ago, I posted this about former Republican turned progressive Hamby. He ran against lefty icon Gwen O’Looney for mayor in 1994 and was affiliated with the local GOP for a couple of years thereafter. He saw the progressive light, though, and has been left-leaning ever since. My post did not concern Hamby so much as posit whether the local left would hold his conservative past against him. As I wrote I at the time:

For those who do not live in our fair city, the first things to happen when any given individual is rumored to be considering a run for local office is that the lefty types immediately comb through the voting history of that individual and the campaign finance disclosures of past candidates so as to detect any latent Republican sympathies, however trivial they may be . . . Since Dodson pulled out of the race, one can only wonder as to how that contest may have played itself out. I assume that the local left would have mentioned Hamby’s past dalliances with things Republican but . . . only for the purpose of distancing him from them. This is Athens-Clarke County; progressive ideology trumps all else.

To me, this nonsense is the Classic City’s own version of Coakley’s loss to Brown up in Massachusetts. The progressive’s staggering defeat could not possibly be the result of being too far left on policy grounds; it has to be that Coakley was not to the left enough and/or residual anger at George W. Bush. Yeah, right. I must confess a certain amusement at seeing progressive types turn on one another; with the Obama Administration coming apart at the seams and the far-left legislative agenda on the verge of collapse, the run-up to November’s elections should be fun to watch.

Be that as it may, my point remains that this dust-up says far more about the progressive left than it does about Mike Hamby. I was indeed prescient – it just took a while for others to catch up.

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, January 8, 2010

Property Tax Assessment Cap Case Slated For 21 January

The Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County is claiming exemption from the recently passed state law that capped last year’s local property tax assessments, excepting only those counties that reassess all of the parcels contained therein on an annual basis (okay, maybe my description of the law is not legally precise, but for the purposes of this discussion it is close enough).

The folks down at City Hall claim that they do, indeed, systematically reevaluate every property every year. Like many, I do not believe such a contention for a moment; I have no doubt whatsoever that the Unified Government is exploiting the provision as a convenient excuse for raising assessments.

But not everyone is taking it lying down. For those stalwart souls desiring more detail than was included in Blake’s story in today’s Banner-Herald, Quick’s suit concerns O.C.G.A. § 48-5-296 (Removal from office on petition of freeholders; appeals), the text of which reads:

Whenever by petition to the judge of the superior court any 100 or more freeholders of the county allege that any member of the county board of tax assessors is disqualified or is not properly and impartially discharging his duties or is discriminating in favor of certain citizens or classes of citizens and against others, the judge shall cite the member to appear before him at a time and place to be fixed in the citation, such time to be not less than 20 nor more than 40 days from the date of the presentation of the petition, and to answer to the petition. A copy of the petition shall be attached to the citation and service of the citation may be made by any sheriff, deputy sheriff, or constable of this state. The officer making the service shall serve copies and return the original petition and citation to the clerk of the court as other process is returned. At the time and place fixed in the citation, unless postponed for reasonable cause, the judge shall hear and determine the matter without a jury and shall render such judgment and order as may be right and proper, either dismissing the petition or removing the offending member of the county board of tax assessors from office and declaring a vacancy in the office. If either party to the controversy is dissatisfied with the judgment and order of the court, the party may appeal the issue as in other cases.

As I understand it, Quick’s suit does not concern the assessment cap per sé, rather it alleges that the Board of Assessors illegally ceded its authority to the Unified Government’s staff. See the plaintiffs’ Petition for Removal and the Rule Nisi issued by Superior Court Chief Judge Lawton Stephens scheduling the hearing for 1:30 p.m. on Thursday 21 January.

Over the past several years, the Unified Government has lost a series of high-profile cases dealing with the policies that it has pursued (rental registration/regulation, park land condemnation, hostile takeover of the Hospital Authority, etc.); I can only hope that this case will end similarly.

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, January 4, 2010

CCSD FY 2009 Per Pupil Expenditures

The Financial Review folks over at the Georgia Department of Education proved as good as their word, sending me notice on New Year’s Eve that the FY 2009 per pupil expenditures for the Clarke County School District had been posted, coming in at $11,248.22.

Readers may remember that the CCSD’s per pupil expenditure figure for FY 2008 was $11,180.05. Thus, the figure for FY 2009 increased by 0.61%. The corresponding figures for the state as a whole were $8965.24 for FY 2008 and $8912.19 for FY 2009, reflecting a decrease of 0.59%. So, the short version is that the CCSD’s per pupil expenditures increased from 24.70% above the state average for FY 2008 to 26.21% above the state average for FY 2009.

Regarding the details, the CCSD continued to outspend the state average in six of the seven categories tracked by the DOE, in some cases by wide margins indeed:

• Instruction $7460.97 (+ 23.98% of the state average of $6017.89)
• Pupil Services $288.28 (- 3.17% of the state average of $297.73)
• Staff Services $669.22 (+ 45.48% of the state average of $460.11)
• General Administration $494.86 (+ 14.39% of the state average of $432.62)
• School Administration $634.96 (+ 14.25% of the state average of $555.76)
• Transportation $747.01 (+ 73.66% of the state average of $430.16)
• Maintenance & Operations $952.93 (+ 32.73% of the state average of $717.92)
• Total $11,248.22 (+ 26.21% of the state average of $8912.19)

If my various calculations are correct, this level of per pupil spending places the CCSD in the 94th percentile of school systems statewide, 11th highest out of 182 reporting – about the same position it has occupied for years.

By way of comparison, review the per pupil expenditures of other area school systems here. Jackson County’s per pupil expenditures are the closet to those of Clarke County, but even so come in at a thousand dollars per pupil lower; all of the other neighboring school systems have figures lower than $9000 per pupil and a couple even have figures lower than $8000 per pupil. But guess which school system has the highest dropout rates, lowest graduation test scores, lowest achievement test scores, lowest AYP scores, etcetera?

These figures are based on the 182 of 185 schools/school systems in the state that have reported their expenditures to the DOE as of the end of December 2009. All of the mathematical calculations shown are my own.

Sphere: Related Content