If it’s February, it must be … Albemarle County’s budget development season.
The School Board has approved its funding request for 2013-14 and moved it forward to the Board of Supervisors for consideration. This “maintenance of effort” proposal, based on input and feedback from advisory groups and staff represents continued division work to meet the School Board’s Vision, Mission, Goals and Core Values for our young people.
The School Board funding request includes a commitment to increasing staff so that class sizes remain low – despite the trending growth in the numbers of children enrolled in our schools.
It also represents the cost of doing business to address increased costs such as health insurance.
Finally, it represents unfunded mandates from DC and Richmond such as the Governor’s mandated salary increase of 5% last year that offsets the pass-on cost to localities of the state-mandated public employee 5% contribution to the Virginia Retirement System. Such mandates add costs to the overall budget to implement federal and state initiatives, ones that often wouldn’t be the highest priorities of the community, educators, or the School Board.
Other facts associated with the 2013-14 School Board funding request
1. We are allocating less revenue per student now than five years ago, despite inflation in the cost of doing business. In the 2008-09 budget, we allocated $11,819. For 2013-14, we estimate allocating $11,691.
2. Current projected revenues for 2013-14 are $154,077,551. The current projected expenses are $155,444,689. The funding gap is $ (1,367,138.)
3. Student enrollment is expected to grow by 203 students from 2012 to 2013-14. The budget includes staffing needed to address increases in student population. This includes staffing to address:
- increased staffing needed for programs such as elementary arts in larger elementary schools such as Brownsville and Cale to maintain parity of service
- administrative staffing to account for growth at Henley Middle School
- special education staff to support increased service needs across schools
- ESOL staffing to support increased service needs across schools to second language learners
- intervention staffing to restore at-risk tutoring services needed in middle and high schools due to increased numbers of at-risk students.
4. We also match funds with the Police Dept. to restore a middle school resource officer.
5. The only instructional initiative that is new also represents a mandate from the General Assembly that the ninth grade class of 2013-14 will be required to complete a virtual learning course before graduation. To implement this initiative, we will need to add instructional resources, train teachers, and support program development. The cost is estimated at $248,135. This initiative also represents how technologies will transform learning in the next five years through blended face-to-face and virtual learning.
6. Both the Board of Supervisors and the School Board have proposed a 2% raise for employees. This addresses both the Governor’s 2% salary initiative for educators and competitive market strategy adopted within joint Board personnel policy.
We live in a time in which the increasing shifts in how technologies are used in every business sector and in homes and communities has more and more influence upon learning opportunities for young people. The quality of teaching, however, remains the most important factor that we can control inside our schools. Teaching quality is directly related to educators who develop and hone expertise in using new learning tools, teaching strategies, and use of space to create opportunities for contemporary learners to excel and embrace learning. Just as with employees in other business sectors, educators must be learning all the time to stay abreast of new tools and strategies for accomplishing their daily work.
In another five years, “one to one” technologies will be more ubiquitous across school districts nationally as textbooks and other paper print resources are eliminated, just as Encyclopedia Britannica no longer is for sale in a paper print version. The workforce our children will enter likely will be fueled by a new generation of American manufacturing advanced through the emerging technologies of 3-D printers and digital fabrication. There will be future changes we can’t even imagine today just as many of us couldn’t imagine just a few years ago the virtual shift to today’s online purchases and banking, social media communication, and vehicular navigation systems.
Redesigning existing school facilities and designing new facilities is necessary along with creation of the infrastructure to support the technology applications that advance annually. A comprehensive professional development program for educators must be well-funded to ensure that teaching quality is sustained as the skills and competencies of teachers are critical for sustaining the best learning available to our students. Programs such as elementary world languages are important to ensure that our young people bring high level of competencies to sustain American competitiveness in a global economy.
The current funding request under consideration in this budget cycle maintains the costs of doing business, meeting mandates, and addressing growth. However, it does not address the transition of today’s schools from a model for learning more suitable to the needs of 20th century learners to a model for children attending our schools in 2013. And, that’s a fact.