Arlington School Board’s Priorities in Question

Comments at Arlington School Board Meeting on April 19, 2018.

Earlier this year Superintendent Patrick Murphy was confronted with a tough directive from the County Manager. Cut costs in the face of declining County revenue despite burgeoning enrollment. In response the Superintendent proposed a combination of spending cuts and draw downs from reserve accounts. The spending cuts will be achieved through reductions in staff and employee benefits and increasing class size to eliminate 57 teaching positions.

At its April 5 meeting, the School Board resolved to restore some of the cuts primarily through reductions in IT spending and staffing reductions at Arlington Tech.

Items restored include funding for: a Green Initiative, Professional Development, Transportation Demand Management, lead teachers, an outdoor learning coordinator and more psychologist/social worker support.

I endorse the School Board’s thrust, which is to maintain priorities while cutting the fat in the APS budget. Nevertheless I’m concerned about a gap between total savings at $1.8 million, and restored funds at $1.5 million. Unless my arithmetic is wrong, $300,000 additional funds could be restored within a balanced budget.

Also while I agree that the increase in class size is long overdue, the direction of the planning factor changes is problematic.

The budget proposes to increase elementary class size by 1, middle school class size by .75 and high school class size by .5 (p. 67). Considering that APS already has the lowest secondary student teacher ratio in the area and elementary school students benefit most from individual attention, these ratios should be reversed.

I am also concerned about cut staffing to the bone while keeping APS’ top heavy administration in place.

According to data from an FOIA request, APS top ten administrative personnel earn an aggregate of $17.2 million dollars which is more than the size of the initial APS deficit. APS should reclassify most of its assistant superintendents as program directors with commensurate reductions in salary.

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