**June 28, 2019 UPDATE: I am so excited to share the great news! **
I want to let you know that we received the Fulton County Tax Digest for 2019 (FY2020), and revenue growth is a bit stronger than anticipated! This means I am comfortable recommending to our Board adjusting the revenue assumptions for local tax revenue up by about $7.5 million or 1.3%, allowing us to fund teacher raises and our other remaining budget priorities!
This adjustment is pending Board approval, but I want to thank you, our taxpayers and this community, for making this possible for our hardworking educators. We couldn’t do this without you, and we are so grateful for this community’s support and commitment to our district and the City.
This adjustment is great news because it means we don’t have to wait on the payment from the City on our tax allocation district settlement agreement to get started on giving the full raises to teachers. This increase would allow us to fund most of the unfunded priorities of the FY20 budget, including the full compensation package that was recommended.
The compensation recommendations, if approved by the Board, are highlighted here:
- Teacher pay raises increase from average 3.3% (about $2,000) to average 4.85% (about $3,000);
- Instructional support pay raises increase from average 2.3% to average 3.2%;
- One-time payment for eligible teacher and instructional support employees who are off step increases from $1,000 to $3,000;
- Non-Teacher pay grades 125-150 receive a 1% increase in addition the step raise previously approved (total = 2.2%);
- Non-Teacher pay grades 111-124 still receive the same step and 1% pay raise previously approved (total = $2.45%);
- One-time payment for eligible non-teaching employees who are off step increases from $700 to $1,000;
- Teacher career pathway stipends increase for department chair (middle school and high school), grade level team lead (elementary) and cooperating teacher, new stipend for lead campus-based mentor;
- Implement remaining pay parity recommendations for JROTC local supplement and stipend adjustments and converting 42 hourly bus monitors and 38 special education paraprofessionals to full time with benefits.
Although we are all excited about this, there is still a lot of work to do including holding three public hearings related to the tax digest. APS is required to advertise a tax increase of 1.54% even though the millage rate will STAY THE SAME. That’s right! The millage rate will NOT increase. We hope you will participate in those! Because of this process, catching everyone up to the full compensation proposal will have to come in phases.
First, teachers and other non-annual employees would receive their new FY20 compensation beginning with their first paycheck of the new school year on August 30th, as normal. Then, annual duty employees would receive the additional compensation, plus retro pay, by the September 30th paycheck. Other components, like stipends and conversion to full time with benefits, would come at a later date.
Again, thank you for your support of the work of APS, and I ask for your continued patience and understanding as we work through this process. I will be sure to keep you fully informed about our timeline and public hearing dates as we move through the July and August steps.
I am so excited about the school year to come and look forward to continuing to work with this community to realize our vision of becoming a high performing school district where students love to learn, educators inspire, families engage and the community trust the system! **
FY2020 Budget Approval and Ongoing Effort to Fully Fund Teacher Raises
After months of hard work and extensive community input, the Atlanta Board of Education last night approved FY2020 budgets for Atlanta Public Schools, which includes an $854 million operating budget. The budget, as approved, provides for equity and transparency, autonomy and flexibility, quality and efficiency, and, most importantly, compensation investments in our teachers and staff and programming for students.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t yet include the full teacher pay raises at the levels as approved by the General Assembly and the Governor earlier this year because the City of Atlanta has not honored its Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with APS. We continue to urge the City of Atlanta to pay the $10 million IGA settlement payment due to APS back in January 2019 and to honor the rest of the settlement agreement which includes funds for the recurring costs related to salary increases. Because we are also waiting for tax digest information from Fulton County, we assumed a conservative 4% growth rate for budgeting purposes. My May 7 blog provides considerable details about all of this.
Although we maintained a conservative approach, this budget includes:
- $281 million to continue the District’s commitment to increase equity throughout the system through developing school budgets using the Student Success Funding (SSF) formula, which bases school funding on student attributes such as poverty, English language learners (ELL), Early Intervention Programs (EIP) and Remedial Education Programs (REP).
- $46.9 million in support of investments in quality early childhood education, leadership development, whole-child development (including the arts, athletics and behavior supports), and investments in pre-K through third grade to ensure all students are reading by the end of third grade.
- More than $10.2 million to provide targeted academic and wraparound support for targeted-tier schools, as well as schools transitioning from targeted-tier to intensive-tier, due to demonstrated gains on the state accountability metric.
- $12 million in salary raises for all employees and keeps in alignment our pay scales and initiatives as set forth in the pay parity plan from 2015.
- Non-teacher pay raises, which include a step and a 1% increase for pay grades 111-124 (total 2.45%), a step only for pay grades 125-140 (total 1.2%), and a $700 one-time payment for eligible employees who are off-step.
- Pay parity adjustments that include increasing school resource officer holidays equivalent to other employees, adjusting the JROTC instructor work schedule and supporting some position reclassifications.
The FY2020 budget continues to support site-based autonomy and flexibility by pushing an additional $3.5 million into schools for textbook adoptions, including $23.7 million of EIP/REP in SSF formula, allowing additional flexibility with turnaround funds, pushing $2.7 million of stipends from CLL to school budgets and continuing to invest $12.4 million in signature programs.
As we move into FY2020, we will do all we can to invest more in our teachers, staff and our schools. For example, as soon as we receive confirmation that the city has honored the IGA, it is our plan to fully fund an average raise of $3,000 per teacher, retroactively if necessary.
We fight hard for money due to APS so that, in part, we can compensate our teachers and staff for their tireless work to provide for our students so that they may have choice-filled lives. Let me shine a spotlight on some of our incredible APS colleagues who have recently received local, state and national recognition:
- Our own Tracey Pendley, fourth grade teacher at Burgess-Peterson Academy and most recent winner of the district’s Excellence in Teaching Award, was named the 2020 Georgia Teacher of the Year by State School Superintendent Richard Woods. That was the first time in almost four decades!
- We are so proud of Kandice Mitchell, the district’s Assistant Director of Athletics, for being named State of Georgia Athletic Director of the Year by the Georgia Athletic Director’s Association. Kandice’s commitment to our student athletes, their families and this district is commendable. Kandice is a proud graduate of Benjamin E. Mays High School. She makes history as the first African-American woman selected for this prestigious honor. Along with Tracey Pendley, Kandice received a well-earned proclamation from the Atlanta City Council just yesterday.
- Dr. Terrilyn Rivers-Cannon, who works with students and families at Washington High and Fickett Elementary, was named this year’s National School Social Worker of the Year by the School Social Workers Association of America.
- The district had two honorees this year for Atlanta Families’ Awards for Excellence in Education. Both Dr. Andrew Lovett, principal of Benteen Elementary School, and Ashleigh Spatz, music teacher at Burgess-Peterson Academy, were surprised last month with $7,500 Teach On Project awards. The award includes $3,500 toward a school project of the winner’s choice, $1,500 for professional development and a $2,500 personal stipend. Dr. Lovett plans to use his award to fund a Building Brilliant Biliterate Readers project at Benteen. Ms. Spatz will use her grant to create the Composing for Community project at Burgess-Peterson.
In addition to these highlights, APS achieved a number of benchmarks and honors in improving human resources over this past school year, which makes our system stronger and working conditions better. Here are just a few:
- We began the 2018-2019 school year with all principal positions filled and only seven teaching vacancies. This is the fifth consecutive year where APS had fewer than ten teacher vacancies on Day One.
- APS has expanded training for principals on hiring for teacher quality and increased principal satisfaction with quality of applicants from 52% in the first year of the survey in 2016 to 71% in 2019.
- APS has reached a record-high ability to provide a substitute when teachers are absent, increasing the substitute fill rate from 88% in 2014 to 98% in 2018.
- The Georgia Association of School Personnel Administrators (GASPA) presented APS with a Platinum award for recruitment process/materials, a Gold award for strategic partnerships and retention practices and a Best in Class award for employee handbooks.
I want to thank Lisa Bracken, our chief financial officer, and Skye Duckett, chief human resources officer, and their teams for all of their hard work during the past school year. And I appreciate everyone in the APS family – students, families, teachers, support staff and all of our partners and supporters. We couldn’t have achieved our many successes without each and every one of you. I hope everyone has a wonderful summer break and comes back ready for more success and progress for the 2019-2020 school year!