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Date Posted: 12:40:11 05/31/10 Mon
Author: Donald F. Valtman
Subject: Too Big to Fail - Part 1

A major 'too big to fail' concern is that if a few super-size organizations make some bad financial bets based on faulty data, they can drag down the economy of a sovereign governmental unit(s). This description fits GCPSS to a T when it comes to public education in Georgia! Consider the following:

1. A SUPER-SIZE ORGANIZATION: GCPSS is the Big-Boy on the block when it comes to Georgia (non-charter) public school systems. Out of 150+ (non-charter) public school systems, GCPSS is heads-and-shoulders the biggest with 157,158 K-12 students (March, 2010 count). ONLY one other Georgia (non-charter) public school system has a K-12 student enrollment of 100,000 or more students.

2. FAULTY DATA: GCPSS planners apparently bought into the myth that student enrollments have no place to go but up! They started 'missing the boat' re: student enrollment projections starting around the 2007-08 school year. Between the 2001-02 and 2006-07 school years, they OVERforecasted (average of their high forecasts versus the actual October GCPSS count)a respectable +125 K-12 students; for the past 3 school years (2007-08 through 2009-10), they were OFF a whopping +3,640 K-12 students! For the upcoming 2010-11 school year, GCPSS planners had publicly forecast a high of 162,236 K-12 students! Anybody believe GCPSS's K-12 enrollment will grow by 5,078 students in the next 6 months? To add insult to injury, GCPSS planners publicly forecast that there would be 187,338 K-12 students in the 2014-15 school year. Anybody believe GCPSS's K-12 enrollment will return to past 'glory day' levels and increase by 30,178 students over the next 4 school years?

3. HOW DOES FAULTY DATA CONTRIBUTE TO BAD FINANCIAL BETS? Because some public school administrators could con voters into needlessly approving/extending SPLOSTs, lease-purchase deals and E-bonds based on unrealistic projections of K-12 student enrollments. The need for/lead time to construct and staff new classrooms and schools are based on FUTURE PROJECTIONS -- NOT TODAY'S COUNTS! This type 'tunnel vision long-range planning' can result in a public school system locking itself into OVERbuilding/OVERstaffing new facilities about the same that its K-12 student enrollment starts to decline coupled with increased class sizes. In GCPSS's case, the land acquisition and construction program Gwinnett voters authorized when they approved the first lease-purchase deal and the 2007-12 SPLOST probably will lead to the closure of some of these or other schools in the not-too-distant future! Without publicly so saying, the BoE admitted as much when it slashed its 2010-11 CAPITAL budget (i.e., the 2007-12 SPLOST building program) by around $175 Million.

Next: Too Big to Fail - Part 2

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