In his $1.36 billion operating budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2021, presented to the Board of Education on December 18, Superintendent George Arlotto included pay raises for employees and 195 classroom teaching positions to address enrollment increases and to reduce class sizes.
More than 91% of the new positions in Arlotto’s recommendation are for employees who will have daily contact with students. The recommendation also contains 20 teaching assistants and permanent substitute positions, 11.2 cultural arts teaching positions, and two elementary reading/language arts teachers.
Dana Schallheim, who represents District 5 on the Board of Education, said the 195 positions and any possible additions by the Board are critical to keeping Anne Arundel “above the water line.”
“Large class sizes and too few student support staff are problems created by years, decades even, of chronically underfunding our schools coupled with ever-increasing enrollment,” Schallheim said. “Unlike a television sitcom that resolves problems immediately, this system-wide challenge will take many years and both determination and advocacy from both the superintendent and county government.”
Fifty-seven positions will go to staff the new Crofton High School, which will open in September 2020 for freshmen and sophomores. More positions will be allocated as the school adds a grade in each of the next two years.
AACPS is educating approximately 1,700 more students this year than it did just a year ago, the greatest year-to-year increase in about 30 years.
Arlotto’s recommendation also funds nine additional school counselors, two more school psychologists, and a social worker to help meet the social and emotional needs of students.
“The singular school counselor at Oak Hill Elementary School in Severna Park currently has a caseload of more than 700 students, far exceeding the American School Counselor Association guidelines recommending a ratio of one school counselor for every 250 students,” Schallheim said. “Adding a school counselor won’t achieve recommended levels; it would, however, be a game changer for both the current school counselor and every student she serves at Oak Hill. Although final staffing decisions won’t be made until the budget process is complete in June, I am optimistic that this year Oak Hill will finally receive the second school counselor they desperately need.”
The budget proposal also contains funding for 73.3 special and alternative education positions, 10 English Language Acquisition teachers, five bilingual teaching assistants, and two bilingual facilitators.
“When I think about the obligation that we, as a school system, have to the nearly 85,000 students we serve every day, three words come to mind: opportunity, intentionality and impact,” Arlotto told the Board in his budget address. “It is only through the creation of opportunities, carried out with intentionality, that we can have the positive impacts on children that they deserve and that our parents and community expect.”
Elementary schools in the four clusters still without the Triple E program – Severna Park, Arundel, Old Mill and South River – would receive staffing and funding for the program under Arlotto’s recommendation.
Last year’s budget included funding to bring the Triple E (Enhancing Elementary Excellence) program to the Broadneck cluster, and Schallheim is excited about the possibility of it coming to the Severna Park cluster.
“Adding an additional ‘special’ period in the cultural arts rotation, Triple E allows students to work on real-world problems, enhancing instruction, connecting content areas, and increasing student achievement, measurements of success already seen in clusters where Triple E has been in practice for a while,” Schallheim said. “Schools can choose one of four Triple E themes: Arts & Humanities, Global Studies, World Culture & Language, and STEM in Society. Triple E exposes students to additional experiences in music and theater, service-learning projects and guest speakers, International Baccalaureate and foreign languages, and engineering design, computer coding and typing.
“Triple E broadens our elementary student’s classroom experiences as well as their worldview,” she continued. “In additional, Triple E provides extra planning time for elementary classroom teachers – a win-win for both students and teachers. I will certainly be advocating for the funding of Triple E in the Severna Park cluster so that students in our community can finally and for the first time benefit from this program. I hope parents and Councilwoman [Amanda] Fiedler will join me and advocate for fully funding Triple E for the Severna Park cluster.”
Arlotto’s recommendation also would add seven prekindergarten teachers and seven teaching assists to increase the number of full-day prekindergarten programs across the county; fund seven positions in the Transportation Division to enhance bus routing and communications with families and bus drivers; and add four custodial and two preventative maintenance technicians in the Facilities Division.
More than $34.4 million in Arlotto’s recommendation is dedicated to employee compensation increases. Pending the completion of negotiations with employee bargaining units, that is sufficient to provide the equivalent of a step increase for all eligible employees, a 2% cost-of-living increase for all employees, and a back step for all eligible employees who were in an eligible bargaining unit or position in the 2011-2012 school year.
Capital Budget Recommendation
Arlotto also presented to the Board a $214.9 million capital budget recommendation that includes $139 million for ongoing construction projects at Edgewater, Tyler Heights, Richard Henry Lee, Quarterfield, Hillsmere, and Rippling Woods elementary schools, as well as Old Mill West High School.
The capital budget recommendation also contains:
Public hearings were scheduled in early January. The Board is scheduled to adopt the budget during its February 19 meeting. Should the Board offer amendments at the February 19 meeting, testimony will be taken on the amendments.