Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Spreadsheets to the Rescue, Part 2

Second in a two part series.

In the first of this series The Other Dunwoody challenged the citizens of Dunwoody to take the city to task just as they have the DeKalb County School System. In this, the second part, we will hop, skip and jump through the minefield known as Public Education. In keeping with the title, we'll focus on the financial aspects discussing the operational characteristics at a later time and leaving the more philosophical aspects of this great entitlement for your own discussion.

Some facts:
  • 2009 DCSS approved total expeditures: $1,174,700,781 (That's right, 1.1 Billion USD)
  • 2009 anticipated K-12 enrollment: 101079 students
  • 2009 DCSS millage rate 22.98
  • 2007 median household income for 30338: $111,884
  • 2007 median house/condo value in 30338: $467,426
  • State income tax rate is 6%
Some assumptions:
  • the average family with children in public school is consistent with the above income and home averages
  • one half of state income goes to support K-12 education
  • a reasonable long-term rate of inflation is 4%
Now, the model requirements:
  • determine the total education costs by number of children in the household (1,2,3,4,5)
  • determine the DCSS property tax on the median home
  • determine the state income tax on the median income (assume it is all taxed)
  • determine the amount of state income tax dedicated to education
  • determine the total annual household contribution to the education system
  • calculate the number of years it would take the average household to pay back their children's education cost (for 1,2,3,4,5 children), assuming no interest, no inflation
In and of itself this is a pretty interesting model[1]. It provides some startling revelations:
  • It is highly unlikely that anyone with children in DeKalb public schools pays the annual cost to the county.
  • It is equally unlikely that anyone with two or more children in DeKalb public schools, even in upscale locales like Dunwoody, will ever pay back the cost of educating their children.
  • Without adjusting for inflation (which only really counts after your children graduate since it applies equally to house values and education costs) it takes the average Dunwoodian almost 50 years to pay off their education debt.
  • The per-student cost greatly exceeds any voucher amount proposed by politicos.
  • These proposed voucher amounts, for a single student, greatly exceed the taxes paid.
  • If it is this bad for the Dunwoody demographic, it must be much worse for some parts of DeKalb.
Regardless of your views on public education, the application of a little critical thinking reveals that it is the planet's largest entitlement program.


  1. This model is presented as an OpenOffice workbook. If you are not using OpenOffice, now is a good time to start.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Spreadsheets to the Rescue, Part 1

First in a two part series.

In Dunwoody and throughout DeKalb there has been quite an uproar over the way the DeKalb County School System spends its money[1]. The Other Dunwoody applauds the fact that citizens are engaged, and many are capable users of some powerful technology: the spreadsheet. Using this tool they've gained insight into the compensation and organizational structure of what in reality is the largest (some say most bloated) local government we deal with: the public school system. And they are madder than a wet hen.

The Other Dunwoody would like to present a new challenge to these engaged, intelligent citizens, especially those within Dunwoody:
Demand the same data from your city government and subject it to the same intense, critical scrutiny.
That's right, The Other Dunwoody challenges you to stop the pollyannish cheerleading and demand the same kind of transparency, the same kind of information at the same level of detail from your city as you are currently receiving from your county school system! We've voted in a city that has given a job or committee position to nearly every active member of the Dunwoody Homeowners association and they have paid us back with incompetence. Clearly these people, who seem to think three plus two be faux pas, need adult supervision.

It is time for everyone in Dunwoody, but especially the "winnning" 35%, to give them just that. Then we will have better informed citizenry and perhaps even live in a city with capable public servants. And when the inevitable debates about wresting our schools from the county bureaucracy begin we won't have to assume the City of Dunwoody will be better stewards of our[2] educational dollars---we'll know.


  1. We in The Other Dunwoody won't quibble here about the semantic. After all if the money our Mayor and City Council collect and spend is their money to spend, then we must afford the same courtesy to DCSS, mustn't we?
  2. The main topic of the second part in the series--just whose dollars are these?