Opinion: E-SPLOST is vital to future of Atlanta Public Schools

APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen delivered her State of the District address at the Howard School, where Martin Luther King once attended elementary school. APS hopes to use funds from the next E-SPLOST to reopen Howard, closed since 1976, as a middle school. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

On Tuesday, May 24, DeKalb Schools, City Schools of Decatur, Atlanta Public Schools and Fulton County Schools will ask voters to extend the 1-cent education special-purpose local option sales tax, known as E-SPLOST. The E-SPLOST question will appear on primary ballots.

In this piece, Atlanta education activist Ann W. Cramer urges her fellow city residents to approve the APS E-SPLOST. The former director for IBM Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs for the Americas, Cramer chaired the search committee that brought Superintendent Meria Carstarphen to Atlanta Public Schools. Cramer is now a consultant with Coxe Curry & Associates, an Atlanta fundraising consulting firm serving nonprofit organizations.

E-SPLOSTS are generally seen as a less painful method of funding school improvements than raising property taxes. With a penny sales tax, the burden is shared by many people from outside the communities.

By Ann W. Cramer

Last October, sitting in the filled gymnasium of the historic David T. Howard School, I was so excited to hear Superintendent Meria Carstarphen’s vision and strategy to bring about the transformation of Atlanta Public Schools — which is focused on what is best for all of our students.

The location for Carstarphen’s second “State of the District” address was a symbolic choice: The old Howard building, where Martin Luther King, Jr. walked the halls before it closed to students 40 years ago, is poised to undergo a transformation of its own— into a 21st century learning facility that will serve as the new middle school for the Grady Cluster. For me, on that day, the possibility of transformation came to life when more than 1,000 community members renewed their commitment to the children of our city.

The Howard renovation is just one of many projects included in the proposed renewal of Atlanta’s Education Special Local Options Sales Tax, or E-SPLOST, which voters will consider when they go to the polls on May 24 for Atlanta Public Schools. (A similar measure is on the same ballot for three of our sister systems in Metro Atlanta — Fulton County, Decatur City and DeKalb County.)

If the one penny sales tax is renewed, E-SPLOST would generate an estimated $546 million over the next five years to fund major capital projects for Atlanta’s schools, communities, and kids — all without raising taxes.

Renewal of the E-SPLOST would fund construction and renovation projects across the city. Some will honor past commitments made to communities— like the renovations in the Mays, South Atlanta, and Jackson Clusters. Others, like the projects in the Grady Cluster, will help us solve long-standing challenges like overcrowding in communities that have seen rapid growth in recent years. Still others — like those in the Carver, Washington, and Douglass Clusters, will help APS create state-of-the art facilities for students as part of its Turnaround Strategy.

But the proposed E-SPLOST doesn’t stop there. It will also support the refurbishment of critical infrastructure upgrades to heating and air, plumbing, roofing and electrical systems in our schools — including those used by APS charter schools. APS is focused on ensuring quality infrastructure no matter where a child walks into school each morning.

In addition, E-SPLOST will pay for upgrades to the district’s safety and security systems, and will allow APS to demolish the vacant and dilapidated school structures that are eyesores in communities and safety risks for children and families. The district has committed to replace and update its school bus fleet— protecting both our students and the air they breathe. As our graduates enter an increasingly competitive global economy, E-SPLOST will provide the latest technology in our classrooms, including more digital learning devices and the powerful wireless networks needed to support interactive learning. Finally, Atlanta’s schools will continue investing in athletics— providing artificial turf and field houses at our high schools and upgrades to both Grady and Lakewood Stadiums.

Our school system — in partnership with the residents of Atlanta — has made tremendous investments in our schools that have played important roles in community revitalization efforts across this city. Now we have the opportunity to ensure our kids’ schools continue to provide a quality learning environment for our students and teaching environments for our educators in the decades to come.

I love Atlanta. We live in the David T. Howard school community. I believe in public schools. I definitely believe in our public schools — the Atlanta Public Schools.  I will vote to support E-SPLOST on Tuesday, May 24. Please join me and be part of the reinvestment in and transformation of Atlanta Public Schools. It is what is best for all students.

 

Reader Comments 0

33 comments
Thunderbolt1989
Thunderbolt1989

Why in the world would I vote yes for this.  If I vote yes for this, then instead of sending my child to a neighborhood middle school, I am sending him to a new middle school 15 minutes from my house 3 neighborhoods away.  I didn't move to Morningside so my child would end up in some other school 15 minutes from the house.  APS needs get a grip on reality.  No school district I know has 1 middle school that feeds into 1 high school.  Normally its 2 or 3 middle schools feeding into 1 high school.  Make Inman larger and build another middle school, and build out Springdale Park's 2nd building pad that is ready to go.  And, if you want your child to attend Grady and you work for APS then come by a house over here instead of looking for a free hand out.  I thought this new Superintendent was going to make changes, so far its status quo, and we all know the Mayor's office is the reason things haven't changed.

HIbought theRefs
HIbought theRefs

APS did it right - explaining the specific construction/renovations projects envisioned; where the project was system-wide (computing infrastructure or security), the explanation was that it was system-wide and provided explanation of the need.


DeKalb, on the other hand, used a "trust us, we know best" approach.  And given the past experience with DCSS, and the absolutely idiotic statements made by Dr. Green in relation to the TAD proposed for the former General Motors property in Doraville, there is NO WAY I'll vote for my county's ESPLOST.

Raja44
Raja44

@AWA1 But by voting against the ESPLOST because of your reservations regarding DeKalb you'll be voting against it for APS too, which you acknowledge has done it right by listing specifically all of the building projects that the money will go to.  

Thunderbolt1989
Thunderbolt1989

@Raja44 @AWA1  APSs proposal to move Inman Middle to Howard is out of this world wrong for our neighborhood.  It reaks of how APS is trying to stick it to wealthy neighborhoods.  No matter all the other improvements, I am voting no simple because of the Inman Middle school proposal.  Go back to the drawing board.


RoadScholar
RoadScholar

I'm leaning against voting for the DeKalb Splost for schools because of a lack of a list of all proposed projects with estimates of the costs. These estimates could show not only priorities but the likelihood of being within their budget of expenditures. DeKalb has a poor....no extremely bad history of using the monies from SPLOST wisely.

Case in point: The infrastructure  sales tax Splost has no list of projects. The critical roadway improvements have never been implemented in past years from the existing budgets. Some fire stations are to be upgraded, but those in cities (cities where DeKalb County is responsible for fire fighting-we pay county taxes for that) have been deleted from the list. Why is it that much of the monies always seem to be "relocated " to south DeKalb?


Same thing happened to the past SPLOST for libraries; the rebuild of the one in Brookhaven (approved before there was a city) was deleted until this was brought up and publicized. Can DeKalb be trusted?

bu22
bu22

@RoadScholar There are only two reasons for DeKalb not to give a list-1) They don't want to tell us what they would do; or 2) They were too incompetent to get the list done in time.  Both good reasons to vote no.

PJ25
PJ25

Throwing copious amounts of money at majority minority school systems has never worked but don't tell the teachers and admins that. 

irishmafia1457
irishmafia1457

APS is well known to spend more per pupil than any school system in the USA yet the hand is always out for more money ,..always the solution for the dysfunctional school system ...more money will solve everything..the real solution ..until parents make education important to the students and they buy in .. the hand will always ask for more

TruthReallyHurts
TruthReallyHurts

Truly one of the dumbest, most ill-informed statements ever posted. Your first statement is a LIE! If your head wasn't so far up Neal Boortz's arse you would know that the districts that spend the most per student are mostly in the northeast and spend well over $15K per pupil.

A public school district that serves a population where nearly two-thirds of the students come from poor backgrounds has to spend more to compensate for what is missing at home in many instances. Whether the parents care or not ( and most do care) the kids still must be educated.

Perhaps you should subscribe to this quote, attributed to the likes of Maurice Switzer, Abe Lincoln and Mark Twain ( all of whom are studied by APS students): "Better to remain silent and thought a fool, than to speak (or post) and remove all doubt."

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

@ TruthReallyHurts

APS spent $14570 per pupil in 2015; factor in the cost of living differential and that's equivalent to over $20000 per pupil in the NE.

Your point is worthless.

Thunderbolt1989
Thunderbolt1989

@TruthReallyHurts  Just like the redistricting fiasco a few years ago in Morningside, this is yet another attempt by APS to flaunt their distaste for wealthy neighborhoods.  Moving Inman to Howard is a significant no in my book.  That is not why I live here.

Laurie8750
Laurie8750

Go ahead, I'll just continue to make retail purchases online with sites that change little to no shipping, and no tax.  Everyone needs a place live, seems property taxes would be a better way to go

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@Laurie8750 Uh state law was changed that requires all e-purchases to charge sales tax. Look at your bill more closely.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

I live in DeKalb and will vote against the DeKalb E-SPLOST because the DCSS administration refuses to divulge any detail about what they will accomplish with the tax monies.

No blank checks for politicians and educators.

This game reminds me of Nancy Pelosi refusing to give details on Obamacare and stating "you must vote for it so you can find out what's in it."



Astropig
Astropig

All for it. It ensures that EVERYONE pays into the kitty to fund school improvements instead of using the politics of envy to make a few pay for everything.It also dies a natural death after a certain length of time unless renewed by the voters.It's the way a conservative government would impose taxes and I agree with the author.


Waste? Fraud? Sure.But if things get too corrupt,don't renew.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Astropig


How about an Esplost for OSD, Vouchers, private school tax credits, etc?


That way EVERYONE pays to fund these items and local voters can choose to pass/renew?

Astropig
Astropig

@AvgGeorgian @Astropig


Sure. Put it on the ballot. Wouldn't change much,but it would ensure that everyone pays a tax that is not easily evaded.The counties that really care about education would pull that much further ahead than they are now.

Legong
Legong

What would MLK think of the public school system's decades of failed promises and refusal to reform itself? And now you want to funnel more tax dollars down the same rat hole?

Give parents tuition vouchers and let them choose the schools, public or private, which make the most sense for their children.

Legong
Legong

@AvgGeorgian @Legong 

Value each tuition voucher at the full $14,000+ per year currently being squandered by Atlanta Public Schools.

This way the kids, their parents and the taxpayers all win.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Legong


How about we give all students  a $3,000 voucher if they choose to leave public school? 3K is more than enough to get a great education online with motivated parents and students.


This way everybody wins.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I don't know about THIS esplost.  Voters in the area need to look at it carefully.


I know I will NEVER vote in favor of an esplost in my county. I have watched with dismay how our local BOE has used the money, employing dicey bait and switch and ambiguous language to fund a palace for themselves and the superintendent's office, all the while letting school buildings and other needs languish.

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady



"I know I will NEVER vote in favor of an esplost in my county"


Doesn't surprise me. You want all this stuff but you want others to pay for it. Typical. E Splost can't be used to fund teacher goodies and superfluous jobs,so I would be shocked if people like yourself were in favor.
We have an ongoing ESplost in my count(ies) and the schools are something to be proud of. 



Astropig
Astropig

@AvgGeorgian @Astropig @Wascatlady


She can't support it because she can't get any of it.Period.


The ESPLOST is a tax that EVERYONE has to pay. The guy that drives a Range Rover and the guy that drives a Chevy.That's why libs don't like it.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Astropig @AvgGeorgian @Wascatlady

You accuse someone of selfishness even though they used your own logic in their explanation. Do you think you have the power to divine human motivations despite outward evidence to the contrary?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Astropig @Wascatlady


Funny that you wrote "Waste? Fraud? Sure.But if things get too corrupt,don't renew.", but accuse Cat of selfishness when she clearly describes her well thought out reasons that she personally can't support renewal of the local Esplost due to waste.


Theresa Pinilla
Theresa Pinilla

Only because the Legislature refuses to adequately fund education, or even restore the 'austerity' cuts of the last 15 years.

My2SenseWorth
My2SenseWorth

My vote too! Everyone has skin in the public school game. When public schools do well, we all win.

Astropig
Astropig

@My2SenseWorth


Agree!

Consider two consumers:


1) Maureen Xe (the "e" is silent) works for a local "Thrifty Nickel"-type throwaway paper.She makes a modest income.She pops down to QT for a carton of Kools and some Mickeys Fine Malt Liquor to cope with the day-to-day stress of such a high profile job as a powerful,influential member of the media.She has to pay taxes on her purchase.That money goes to benefit HER KIDS that are enrolled in public schools.Now if she were "rich", a local columnist for a BIG throwaway paper would call that an "investment" in public schools.Everybody wins.


2) Then there's "Bob". "Bob" lives in a county without an ESPLOST. "Bob" is a smart guy. He hold his properties in someone else's name or some futzy LLC and after deductions and expenses,really pays no net tax.He votes against property tax increases.But,(despite having air quotes around his first name),"Bob" still has to eat,still buys gas and razor blades and has no choice but pay the ESPLOST tax at point of purchase.He contributes to the public school system even though the odds are good that his kids don't go there.


This is the definition of a fair tax.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig @My2SenseWorth The "fairness" of the espost is not being debated, although we CAN debate it at another time, if you like.  The esplost, as you noted above, should not be extended if the system(s) have been seen as repeatedly abusing the money for the good of others besides the students.  Which is what I have seen here.  


When citizens have had positive experiences with their system using esplost money AS THEY SAID THEY WOULD, I'd bet many would not have a problem continuing it, unless they are philosophically opposed.  I was not opposed to it until my system decided it needed marble halls and palace away from all the traffic of the schools for receptions for the multiple superintendents we have been paying.


I also won't vote for SPLOST in the future for my county, seeing how they have repeatedly blown the money on a court house fit for a county of 200,000, as well as money "disappearing" repeatedly, years after being voted for, for a ball field for one of the schools.  A ball field that, over a decade later, is just now nearly finished.  I refuse to participate in that charade again.


Your constant mention of vouchers as the answer to every question and topic grows old.  I don't believe I need the help of anyone to provide for my children, but if you do, admit it.

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady @Astropig @My2SenseWorth


I've not constantly mentioned vouchers here or anywhere.Like most stuff you just make up,you have a stereotypical view of anyone that you don't cotton to.


You can't quote any of my (brief) comments on vouchers that prescribe them as the answer for every issue because I haven't ever written that they are.


Again,ESPLOST is a way to make people like you pay for the things you ordinarily demand that everyone else pay for.That's why you're opposed.It's pretty obvious.