THE HUB - Feature Article

  • Budget Recommendation Focuses on 7 Key Areas

    Posted by George Arlotto, Ed.D on 12/23/2020

    As our team developed the Fiscal Year 2022 operating budget recommendation I recently presented to the Board of Education, we focused our efforts around six key areas: class sizes, special education, English Language Learners, early childhood education, social-emotional wellness, and compensation. A seventh – technology – quickly emerged because the pandemic that still grips our county and nation has made remote access critical to today’s education.

    My $1.37 billion recommendation addresses these vital areas of our school system in the most prudent way we can given the current circumstances. It contains 225.9 new positions across our school system, 97 percent of which – all but 6.5 positions –are employees who interact with and impact the lives of children every day.

    The classroom positions include 129 to continue to address class sizes as part of a four-year plan to adequately tackle this issue, and 22 more at Crofton High School in the second of our three-year buildout of that staff. Another 2.5 positions will be dedicated to our Triple-E program so will be able to finally staff programs at Oakwood and Richard Henry Lee elementary schools. There are also two positions for new programs at the Center of Applied Technology – North, one for aviation mechanics and one for barbering.
    I’ve also included funding for 13 new kindergarten teacher assistants and 30 new special education positions, 15.6 of which will be dedicated to our specialty sites and 14.4 of which will go to support comprehensive schools. This will continue to allow us to better meet the unique needs of each student in the least restrictive environment.

    There are six positions to support English Language Learners, perhaps the fastest growing student group in our school system, and 5.5 more positions – three school counselors, 1.5 social workers, and one school psychologist – to better address the social-emotional needs of students.

    We have been fortunate to take advantage of federal and state grant funding to enhance the technology for our students and employees since the pandemic began. That funding will disappear in the coming months, however, and we must allocate resources to sustain the services that have become necessities. There is more than $7 million in my recommendation to this effort, an amount that includes $3.1 million for the refresh and replacement of student Chromebooks and employee laptops, $1.9 million for the learning management system and Google suite, and $1.5 million for the continuation of our i-Ready diagnostic assessment and adaptive learning tool at the elementary and middle school levels. This tool addresses a key recommendation of the Eliminating the Opportunity Gap committee: to provide access to a personalized learning portfolio that provides more access and feedback for every family and student.

    An additional $588,000 is included to launch a virtual learning and home instruction program that will provide a continuum of options to secondary home instruction students. Our plan is to open the program in September for 40 students in sixth and ninth grades and expand it over the next three years to a full virtual program for middle and high school students. This program has the potential to have a significant revenue offset as we bring some homeschooled students back into our school system.

    While we must negotiate with our bargaining units to determine the exact nature of compensation increases, I have included sufficient funds to provide 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 that our Board approved last month.

    Whether it is with the people who guide our students daily or the delivery of programs, support, and instruction, we have the opportunity every single day to positively impact the lives of children. Every second spent with a child is a chance to inspire. That’s what this recommendation is designed to allow us to continue to do.

    The writer is Superintendent of Anne Arundel County Public Schools. He can be reached at 

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