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Votes

Perry Seeks New Initiatives

Proposes 3.5-Percent Increase in School Budget

School Superintendent Rebecca L. Perry has proposed an operating budget of $142,887,486 to the Alexandria School Board, an increase of 3.5 percent over last year's budget.

Her budget takes into account a decrease of $1 million in state funding due to the city's declining student enrollment. However, it also includes some new initiatives.

Some of these initiatives include increasing the number of school days from 180 to 183 at a cost of $1.7 million. "These extra days will be incorporated into the existing calendar, rather than tacked onto the end of the school year," Perry said.

Another initiative is $125,000 in incentives to encourage highly qualified, experienced teachers to accept jobs at schools that are accredited with warning. "I am particularly interested in this initiative and will take a close look at it," said V. Rodger Digilio, a member of the School Board.

Perry is also proposing a $1.3 million initiative to lease 3,000 laptops for all students in grades nine to 12. "These laptops will be instrumental in bridging the gap for students who do not have access to technology at home," Perry said.

According to the superintendent's budget message to the Board, "The operating budget for 2004 focuses on improving student achievement through continued funding for existing quality programs and initiatives such as differentiated resources, focus school programs, the performance evaluation program and improved use of instructional technology."

IN ANOTHER MATTER relating to the capital budget, the Facilities Committee recommended funding the $1 million cost of overruns for the construction project at George Washington Middle School by moving money from 2006 to 2004. "We are certainly not going to go to the city to ask for more money but are recommending handling it by reprogramming capital money," Digilio said.

Although City Council has not yet received the proposed budget, the issue was discussed briefly at the Jan. 14 City Council meeting. Legislative Director Bernard Caton informed Council that the school system's budget would be decreased by $730,000 in state funding this year and by $1 million in the 2004 budget. "This has nothing to do with the governor's budget cuts," Caton said. "It has to do with the state formulas for allocating resources and is a result of declining student population."

Councilwoman Redella S. "Del" Pepper asked for a clarification. "If the student population is declining, then shouldn't the cost of educating the students also be declining?" she asked.

There was no discussion, as the budget has not yet been presented.