After four budget recommendations and more than two hours of debate between Cobb School Board members, they approved a final $856.3 million budget that included five furlough days, and giving employees a half-step increase salary raise next year. They also approved cutting 182 teaching positions, which will be eliminated through retirements and resignations.
The board also got an earful from 16 speakers during public comments who addressed the board over their support or opposition to purchase $7.5 million in Common Core-aligned math resources that was voted down last month and the need for Common Core Standards.
The fiscal 2014 budget was approved 4-3, with members Kathleen Angelucci, Tim Stultz and David Morgan opposing.
The other three budgets turned down were presented by Stultz, Angelucci and David Banks.
Stultz’s budget included the reduction of one of the five furlough days, increasing the cuts to teacher and administrative positions, and spending $250,000 on an external audit.
He stated many times during the meeting that he was trying to look out for the district’s future so that they aren’t coming back again next year trying to resolve the same budget woes with the same cuts.
Angelucci recommended the board give employees their full step increase and bring back Project 2400, which prepares students for the SAT.
A step increase is a raise based on approximately 1 percent of an employee’s salary.
Three teachers addressed the board during the salary hearing asking members to find cuts in other areas and preserve their salary step and pay cuts due to furlough days.
“I challenge you … pursue any other options that are within your means,” said Walton High School teacher Matthew Staruch. “The teachers of Cobb County deserve better and the students of Cobb County deserve better.”
Banks’ budget would hire 200 half-day teachers in all and reinstate Project 2400 as well.
Another motion made by Angelucci was to delay the vote to a later date but that was voted down.
“In light of our speakers here tonight … and other proposals I think the board needs more time,” she pleaded.
She was supported by Banks and Stultz.
In other news, the board also heard from more than 15 speakers, 11 of whom begged the board to reconsider the purchase of math materials aligned with Common Core Standards, and five who pleaded that the board not go down that path.
Georgia Schools Superintendent John Barge describes Common Core as ensuring that the algebra taught in Georgia is the same Algebra taught in New York or Kansas. But critics worry that Common Core has been hijacked by President Barack Obama’s Administration and will lead to the federalization of education and a loss of local control.
“We need our math textbooks,” said Cobb Schools teacher Brian Lewis who sat on the math adoption committee that researched purchasing proposed math materials for the district.
“I’m asking you to separate your political anxieties from the educational needs of our students,” said another teacher, Stephanie Santoro.
“Don’t politicize math or our education,” agreed Cobb Schools parent John Salinas.
Another teacher, Farrah Gamel, said she was there to speak on behalf of her students because the textbooks are a guide and source of help for them if they don’t have her around or have access to the Internet.
“They very much need the resources,” she said. “We are here to educate the whole child … we are at the point where enough is enough. You’re asking us to keep the highest standards and you’re asking us to do it with less class time, more students in our classrooms and for less pay.”
Another Cobb teacher, John Kilpatrick, told the board that it should be able to revote on the math resource purchase because in years past the board has voted more than once on the school calendar.
Not everyone was on board with these teachers and parents’ pleas though.
“We need to get rid of Common Core,” said Cobb Schools parent Patricia Hay. “It’s already wrecking health care. We need to fight Common Core because we are losing local control.”
Susan Stanton, the grandparent of a Cobb Schools student, said she’s had the opportunity to review the materials and believes it will make students fall back two grades.
“I have some major concerns,” she said. “If the aim of Common Core is aimed to raise the standards of students, we are going in the wrong direction … please review these materials before confining our children to a sub-standard education in the name of expediency.”
Mary Ware said she thinks Georgia should follow in the footsteps of other states who are backing out of Common Core.
“I agree that students need books … but there are other alternatives, and I would rather not make the critical mistake now of spending so much money now when we can do something better when we have the time to review it a little further,” she said.
The last speaker was Tammy Slaten, a Cobb Schools parent, who argued that there is no evidence that Common Core can help students get jobs and get into college.
“We need to focus on the quality of education and do it together,” she said.
After the meeting, Cobb Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said he doesn’t plan to bring the vote on the math materials back up for another consideration of approval because the board has already voted on it.
Board Chair Randy Scamihorn said he had not thought about whether he will bring back the vote for reconsideration because he is more focused on the budget but it. could come back up for discussion in June.