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City Students: No. 1 in Poverty

Superintendent proposes $236 million budget; more students in poverty.

Alexandria City Public Schools

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Alexandria Superintendent Morton Sherman

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Superintendent of Schools Morton Sherman unveiled his FY2013 budget on Thursday, Jan. 19, describing his plan as “about the best budget we could have come up with. It is the coalescing of the work we’ve done over the past four years.”

The proposed operating budget represents a 2.4 percent increase from the FY2012 approved operating budget, putting it at $215,691,137. The proposed combined funds budget is a 1.8 percent increase from FY2012, at $236,331,598.

Requested city appropriation totals $180.3 million or 3.2 percent above FY2012.

The grants and special projects budget is $13.7 million, decreasing 8.4 percent compared to FY2012 as a result of the expiration of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funding.

City appropriation per student has fallen slightly from $17,840 in FY2012 to $17,505 in FY2013 (or 1.9 percent), with student enrollment increasing over 3 percent.

The superintendent said that the local school system has the most diverse student population and the highest number of students eligible for free and reduced price meals (56 percent in FY2012) in Northern Virginia. In light of this, the FY2013 school nutrition budget is $6.9 million, 6.2 percent more than FY2012.

At 3,178 students, the English Language Learning population has leveled out after several years of growth. The budget allocates 4.5 percent or $9.8 million to these ELL students.

The special education population has decreased by 260 students in the past four years to 1,478 students. The proposed budget allocates $24 million or 11 percent of the total operating fund budget.

Sherman focused on the need to maintain small class sizes and low student/counselor ratios at secondary schools. To this end, he is allocating $71.1 million or 33 percent of the total operating fund. ACPS currently has the smallest class sizes in Northern Virginia and the lowest student/counselor ratio in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

There will be an investment in staff through professional development and salary increases including a full step halfway through the year for teachers.

Student supports such as social workers, psychologists and registered nurses will total $6.4 million or 3 percent of the operating budget.

High school satellite campuses have been established for Flexible and Extended Learning Opportunities at $4.1 million. The adult education program is also being redesigned, in light of this year’s numbers that, of over 200 enrolled, only 58 succeeded in getting degrees.

Twenty-one central office staff positions will be cut, as well as two teacher positions at the middle school level and four teachers at T.C. Williams. Seven classroom elementary school teachers will be hired.

Due to an increase in Virginia Retirement System (VRS) contribution and the rising cost of heath insurance, there will be a 0.71 shift of VRS Group Life rates to employees and an increased VRS employee contribution.

Intercession programs at Mount Vernon and Tucker Elementary schools have been shortened to “create a pool of money so that other schools can have programs that these schools have had,” said Sherman. All elementary and secondary school summer learning, except K-Prep, ELL, extended school year and credit recovery, have been cut.

Also in an effort to save money, non-essential travel has been eliminated from school and departmental budgets. A competitive funding process for external partners has been established. Sherman estimates these and other program efficiency savings total $10.8 million.

“They are wonderful students, remarkable people,” said Sherman. “It is a privilege and an honor to serve them. We see it as a sacred trust.”

In total, $14,400,761 has been reallocated in this proposed budget.