Arlington County Civic Federation
The Civic Voice of Arlington
April 3, 2001
REPORT OF THE SCHOOLS COMMITTEE:
The Schools Committee recommends an FY2002 school budget of $272,643,259 with a General Fund transfer of $212,061,555.
The Schools Committee supports the School Board's base line budget for FY2002 to maintain services at their current level, including funds for 377 projected new students and financing new cost of the existing salary schedule. Below are the Schools Committee's comments about the four area of initiatives addressed in the School Board's budget. Due to time constraints, we have had to make our recommendations before receiving all the answers from the school staff to questions we submitted; we may revise our recommendations when we have received those answers. Meanwhile, the separate, attached handout details how we would allocate spending differently from the School Board's revised budget.
Raising Achievement and Eliminating the Gap.
We support the School Board's budget proposals to strengthen the summer school and early childhood development programs.
We believe that the School Board should restore the full amount of the Superintendent's original proposal to combat truancy. Students are unlikely to pass the essential SOL tests if they are not in class.
We are skeptical about the emphasis given to staff positions and to the expansion of "exemplary projects." There has never been a useful evaluation of the existing exemplary projects and the budget proposal for the new exemplary projects contains no component for measuring student success.
We have seen no data showing that either the Minority Student Achievement Network or Diversity Peer Training Coordinator positions have a demonstrated record of assisting students in improving their grades, attendance, disciplinary records or test scores. We recommend against funding either of those initiatives.
Improving Staff Quality Through Recruitment and Retention.
We think this is the most important element of the budget and support all the School Board's proposals. These initiatives include a 3% COLA.
Evaluation and Accountability.
We think evaluation and accountability must be included in all programs.
We do not support funding for two initiatives in this category. We do not recommend funding a clerical position in each of the elementary schools for two additional months during the summer, as principals currently have a year‑round assistant. We also do not recommend funding the two middle school activity director positions that came from the Community Activity Fund.
Our recommendations represent an additional savings of $372,120. The monies gained from our savings should be applied to the Capital Projects Fund which was cut $1,000,000.
We believe if additional funds become available the first priority should be to finance the Superintendent's original VRS and Capital Projects proposals. Additional funds beyond that should go to implement the Superintendent's supplemental compensation package. It is our opinion that teacher salaries will have to increase substantially to attract and retain good teachers. The Superintendent's supplemental compensation proposal was a step in that direction.