Is DeKalb spending half billion from penny tax on right schools?



On Monday, the DeKalb school board will decide how to spend the more than $500 million that will be reaped from the renewed penny sales tax designated for education.

In May, DeKalb voters overwhelmingly approved extending their Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for another five years to address overcrowded school clusters and renovations to several outdated schools.

Under state law, the sales tax can go to buildings and capital projects, technology, school buses as well as debt reduction. Unlike other metro school districts that asked voters to renew an E-SPLOST, DeKalb didn’t spell out its exact plans for the money; it gave general spending categories, but specific projects were not cited.

Now, a list of specifics has been put forth and will be voted on by the school board. It includes $85 million for a new Cross Keys High School and $30 million for a new John Lewis Elementary School.

The vote is not without its controversy, with some communities charging the list of projects overlooks their local schools. But a parent advocate writing in the AJC Get Schooled blog contends the list focuses on critical improvements and reflects a new approach in DeKalb that prioritizes need.

“The list addresses needs, not wants. Under the old model of determining E-SPLOST funding priorities, school board members looked at their own districts and advocated for projects based on geography. Today, the district faces more than $2 billion in capital needs, partly because the old model led to unwise E-SPLOST spending. Now, money will follow need,” says parent Allyson Gevertz.

To read more, go to the AJC Get Schooled blog.


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