DeKalb super: Students make ‘economy of tomorrow’

Stephen Green, right, has been supported and opposed in his opinions regarding the Doraville TAD.

DeKalb County School District (DCSD) Superintendent Stephen Green weighed in on the controversial tax allocation district (TAD) conversation in an essay released May 5.

A TAD being proposed in Doraville would help finance multi-purpose redevelopment of the 165-acre former GM assembly plant. The project requires participation from the school district and county commission, but DCSD has denied formal presentations from developers, Doraville and other project supporters on the grounds that the majority of the school board does not support the project.

In addition, Green has stated the district is in the business of education, not funding private projects.

Doraville Mayor Donna Pittman has released an OP-ED piece and taken the time in Doraville’s 2016 State of the City Address to discuss the topic’s importance. The developers have since said the project may be downgraded from a multi-use complex to strip malls, residential buildings and auto-dealerships if the TAD is not established.

On May 5, Green’s essay “The little engine that does,” equated DCSD to the children’s story The Little Engine That Could in supporting its 102,000 student body and regional economy.

“Let’s be clear; first and foremost, our school district offers children a safe, stable setting for their schoolwork and social life,” Green writes. “And we offer parents and families the assurance that every child will be respected and taught in a healthy, holistic environment.”

Green then detailed how DCSD financially supports the area through preparing the next generation for job creation, wage earning, tax paying and responsible citizenry.

“We also create the economy of tomorrow in our classrooms,” Green writes.

The first part of this engine, according to Green, is the 15,407 employees, including 6,543 teachers.

“This makes the district the second largest employer in the county right behind the Emory University complex,” Green writes. “Most of the $634 million these good people make annually in competitive salaries goes straight back into our Atlanta-area economy, not into the coffers of corporations in other states or into the pockets of realty speculators.”

Green writes the school district has spent more than $128 million in E-SPLOST funds in partnership with local businesses in the Atlanta region. The superintendent said this amount was between $210 million to $255 million if one were “include a multiplier effect for local sub-contractors and other services.”

“The fact is that our little economic engine turns out not to be so little after all,” Green writes.

Green also mentions how an improving school district has been responsible for attracting new residents and businesses, specifically citing the district’s 11 percent increase in graduation rates, workshops for un- and underemployed parents, dual-degree programs and advanced placement (AP) test expansion.

“When Daimler Benz North American recently announced the relocation of its headquarters to the area, it partly based the decision on the quality of local education,” Green writes. “And Ray Gilley, president of the Decide DeKalb Development Authority, recently said DeKalb County is entering a period where we will “continue seeing growth.” One reason Gilley cited [being] our ‘very much improving school district’ and a large, quality workforce (thank you, DeKalb schools).”

Green concludes in asking businesses, local and state governments to support its local system, “instead of [being] at odds with it.”

“The sparks thrown off by the school district’s economic engine glow all around us,” Green writes. “Some examples may surprise – we deliver economic value, without pavement or pollution, in unexpected, non-traditional ways.”

Green has found support from the county he serves at public meetings held in April and May.

On April 18, former DCSD board of education member Paul Womack commended the current board for opposing the TAD. Womack said the developers knew the cost before investing in the project and should take responsibility. Womack also echoed Green’s sentiments of being an economic developer by way of educating young minds.

“In 2009, we were asked as a board to support a TAD on Peachtree Road,” Womack said. “This board turned it down because we realized we had taken an oath to educate children, not become bankers for people who invest money. Your oath is the same as we took – to educate children. You’re not in the business of making millions of dollars for people.”

On May 9, the board received similar support from Ernest Brown, who commended Womack’s initiative.

 

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