Big ideas come with price tags, and Anne Arundel Superintendent Eric J. Smith outlined them to the county school board last night.
Smith presented a $640.6 million operating plan for the 2004 fiscal year that seeks $50 million in increases over the current fiscal year, including $8.5 million to pay for initiatives he is convinced will improve student achievement.
He said $12.7 million of the money needed could come from redirecting funds and cutting other parts of the budget.
The proposal for fiscal 2004, which begins July 1, is a blueprint for the monumental changes Smith envisions for the 76,000-student district. If approved by the board and then the County Council, it will boost spending by $6.1 million for new textbooks in kindergarten through eighth grade; allocate more than $1 million to expand advanced-studies programs; and target an additional $200,000, along with federal funds, to create all-day kindergarten classes at 10 struggling elementary schools.
But the bulk of his requested increase, $33 million, would be for traditional district expenses, such as promised teacher pay raises and rising health insurance costs. An additional $8.6 million is needed to maintain programs whose grants have run out, Smith said.
The request comes as federal, state and county governments across the country feel the effects of an economic slowdown. Some Anne Arundel officials cautioned that Smith's call for a 6.1 percent funding increase is likely to face obstacles.
"I think it's a realistic list of what he would like to do. The [big] question is still going to be how much can we afford to give the school system, given all the other competing priorities and the huge uncertainty at the state level," said John Hammond, the county's budget officer.
Smith, who came to the county in July from Charlotte with a track record as a reformer, said he and his school administrators were mindful of the tough economic climate as they prepared their plan.
"This is a very responsible budget that we're putting forward," he said. "But we do have priorities. Our children have needs that we cannot deny, even in economic troubles."
Among his proposed cuts, 16 support staff positions would go away through attrition. Thirteen "mentors" -- employees who work to support first-year teachers -- would be eliminated. And Smith envisions a $1 million cut in school maintenance upkeep, which would mean skipping minor fix-up projects.
The new superintendent used his budget pitch to the school board last night as an opportunity to repeat statistics he considers alarming. In 1993, Anne Arundel ranked sixth-best among the state's school systems on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program exams, given to students in third, fifth and eighth grades. Last year, it fell to 17th.
He proposes two major initiatives for the lower grade levels. First, he wants to spend $12.1 million on textbooks for all K-8 students: $6.1 million from the operating budget -- $3.8 million on reading and language arts texts, $2.35 million on math books -- plus $6 million from capital funds.
The new texts would be part of a six-year phase-in process aimed at making classroom material more consistent throughout the county, he said. Teachers using the same texts would also be in a better position to help each other, Smith said.
Another approach he hopes to bring to the district is full-day kindergarten. He believes full-day kindergarten significantly improves young students' ability to excel in school later on, and he hopes to begin the classes next fall.
The proposal seeks funding to bring full-day kindergarten to these elementary schools: Annapolis, Eastport, Freetown, Georgetown East, Germantown, Harman, Mills-Parole, Park, Tyler Heights and Van Bokkelen.
For older students, Smith proposes to spend more than $1 million on more challenging programs, including new Advanced Placement classes and an International Baccalaureate program at two high schools.