The Arlington School Board adopted an $87.7 million budget request last night that would pay for new programs to boost minority achievement, provide elementary school guidance counseling and improve high school science instruction.
The budget request represents a 5.4 percent increase over the $83.2 million budget for the current school year. It would require $66 million from the county, $2.6 million more than the County Board's suggested spending guideline. The County Board, which must approve school spending, is scheduled to vote on the plan April 26. The remainder of school funding comes from tuition, rental fees, and state and federal sources.
School Board members, who approved the budget after three hours of discussion last night, said it would finance improvements in the instructional program, school buildings and teacher salaries and benefits. "I am very pleased with the budget, and I have no doubt that services for children will be improved," said School Board Chairman Gail H. Nuckols.
Margaret A. Bocek, the board's only Republican, voted against adoption of all but the $2 million food services fund, saying she would prefer programs that directly affect students to improvements such as teacher incentives and elementary school guidance counseling.
Among other things, the budget would finance training programs for parents of non-English-speaking students, resurfacing of some play areas and bus lanes and teacher incentives such as sabbaticals and a mentor program in which experienced teachers are assigned to guide and help new teachers.
The budget request would finance several changes approved by the School Board last fall, including a reduction of the pupil-teacher ratio in fourth to sixth grade classes from 27 to 1 to 26 to 1 and a pilot guidance program for elementary school students at a cost of $168,000. It also calls for $130,000 for new programs to improve minority achievement, $111,000 to improve secondary science instruction and $32,000 to provide more courses for high school students through Saturday classes and an optional seventh period.
The board voted to boost the salary of beginning teachers 7.7 percent, from $18,670 this year to $20,100, and to maintain as much as possible the current ratios between steps of the salary schedule. Using the proportion between starting and top salaries this year, maximum salaries next year would be $41,808, up from $38,835.
Bonnie Pfoutz, president of the Arlington Education Association, praised the new incentive programs, telling the board they demonstrate "your commitment to our profession," and urged the board to improve salaries at the top of the scale as well as those at the bottom.