Superintendent George Arlotto has recommended to the Board of Education a $1.37 billion Fiscal Year 2022 operating budget that includes 205 additional classroom teaching positions to continue to address instructional needs and increases in technology funding to continue to enhance the virtual learning environment for students and staff.
The recommendation, a $52.3 million increase over the current year’s budget, contains a total of 225.9 new positions, 97 percent of which – all but 6.5 – are employees who interact with children every day and 91 percent of which are direct classroom positions.
“We are placing every additional position in this recommendation where it will impact children,” Dr. Arlotto told the Board in his budget address.
The classroom positions include 129 as part of a four-year plan to continue to address class sizes, 22 at Crofton High School in the second of a three-year buildout of that staff, and 2.5 for the Triple-E program to staff programs at Oakwood and Richard Henry Lee elementary schools. Two positions are also included for new aviation mechanics and barbering courses at the Center of Applied Technology – North.
Thirty positions are allocated to support students with special needs at specialty sites and in comprehensive schools, and 13 more would fund kindergarten teaching assistant positions to assist in classrooms of the school system’s youngest learners. An additional six positions would go to the English Language Acquisition program, which now supports more than 6,150 students.
Dr. Arlotto’s recommendation also includes funding for three additional school counselors, 1.5 social workers, and one school psychologist to help support the social-emotional needs of students.
“I want to be clear, however, that this is just one more step on a path to boost the school counselors at the elementary level as we continue to strive to meet the social-emotional needs of our young learners. Addressing these issues at an earlier age can help avert more serious issues in our older grades,” Dr. Arlotto told the Board in his address.
The recommendation also includes more than $7.5 million to continue technology enhancements funded in the current year by soon-to-be expiring state and federal grants. Those include programs to continue to provide Chromebooks for every student and laptops for every teacher, a new learning management system to enhance virtual learning, Google Voice availability to allow families to contact teachers and staff regularly in the virtual environment, and the continuation of the i-Ready diagnostic assessment and adaptive learning tool at the elementary and middle school levels. This tool addresses one of the Eliminating the Opportunity Gap Committee’s key recommendations to provide access to a personalized learning portfolio that allows more access and feedback for every family and student.
Nearly half of Dr. Arlotto’s recommended increase – $25.1 million – is allocated to compensation increases for employees. While final determinations will be made through negotiations with employee bargaining units, the funding will allow for a step increase or equivalent for all eligible employees, a 1 percent cost-of-living increase for all employees, and the second half of the mid-year step increase for teachers approved by the Board of Education in November.
“Whether it is with the enhancement of educational facilities in which our students learn, or the delivery of programs, support, and instruction, we have the opportunity every single day to positively impact the lives of children,” Dr. Arlotto said in his address. “Every second spent with a child is a chance to inspire.”
CAPITAL BUDGET RECOMMENDATION
The $234.5 million capital budget recommended by Dr. Arlotto contains $188 million for new construction, replacement projects, renovations, and additions. More than $80 million of that is directed toward the transformation of the current Old Mill complex in Millersville, with $76 million dedicated to the construction of Old Mill West High School and $4.8 million slated for the design and construction of the new Old Mill Middle School South, which will be built at the current Southgate Park.
The recommendation also contains $93.5 million for construction of replacement facilities at Quarterfield ($23.7 million), Hillsmere ($20.2 million), and Rippling Woods ($29.9 million) elementary schools, and a new West County Elementary School ($19.6 million).
The recommendation also includes $10 million for full-day kindergarten and prekindergarten additions at Van Bokkelen, Sunset, Brock Bridge, and Meade Heights elementary schools, and $4 million for a four-classroom addition at Southgate Elementary School.
BUDGET HEARINGS, WORKSHOP
The Board of Education has scheduled two virtual public hearings and a virtual public workshop on Dr. Arlotto’s budget recommendation. Public hearings will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 5, 2021, and Thursday, January 7, 2021. Both are limited to 100 speakers who will be allotted two minutes each.
Due to space limitations, members of the public can only sign up to speak at one of the two budget hearings.
The Board will also hold a virtual public workshop on Dr. Arlotto’s budget recommendation at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, January 19, 2021. No budget-related public testimony will be taken at the workshop or at the February 17, 2021, meeting at which the Board is scheduled to adopt its budget request. Should the Board offer amendments at the February 17 meeting, testimony will be taken on the amendments.
Dr. Arlotto’s full Fiscal Year 2022 operating and capital budget recommendations, as well as a text of his budget address and a Budget in Brief document, will be posted at www.aacps.org/fy2022budget on December 17.