Comments at Arlington School Board Meeting on April 5, 2018.
Consistent with the County Manager’s direction to cut costs, the Superintendent has proposed a balanced budget for FY19. He achieves this through a combination of spending cuts and draw downs from reserve accounts. The spending cuts will be achieved through reduction in employee benefits and increasing class size to eliminate 57 teaching positions.
While I applaud the Superintendent’s general direction, I am concerned about the equity of the proposed cuts.
Certainly the increase in class size is long overdue. The FY18 WABE report shows that the Arlington has smallest secondary student/teacher ratio (p. 29) and the highest per pupil cost (p. 31) of any jurisdiction in the Washington metropolitan area.
Nevertheless 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 across the board cuts in other funding areas that necessitate elimination of 29 additional positions (p. 67). These economies will cut staffing to the bone while keeping APS’ top heavy administration in place.
With almost 29,000 students, Stafford County Public Schools is approximately the same size school district as Arlington.
Yet it has 1 associate and 1 assistant superintendent as compared with Arlington’s 7.
According to data from an FOIA request, APS top ten administrative personnel earn an aggregate of $17.2 million dollars. With benefits that comes to well over $20 million per year. APS should reclassify most of its assistant superintendents as program directors with commensurate reductions in salary.
That way no one will get fired, but the pain of cost cutting will be spread out.