Education and Preparing Everyone with the Skills to Succeed
Arlington has excellent schools—we must invest in them wisely to make sure that our schools serve all of our students well and that everyone has the skills to succeed in the 21st century economy. The County Board plays a critical role in determining how much money to transfer to the School Board for the school system’s annual operating budget. The County Board also has an important role to play on the capital budget, since coordinated planning and bonding authority can help fund school construction. That role is particularly critical now since our schools are facing a capital budget shortage and a broader capacity crunch. More than ever, we need additional classrooms and buildings to educate all of our students.
Our Commitment and the Costs Per Student
Arlington has always valued education and we should renew our commitment to the best schools not only in Virginia, but in the United States. We also must admit that our schools are funded at the highest level per student in Northern Virginia and that our construction costs also outpace our Northern Virginia neighbors. Neither of these realities necessarily mean that we should reduce funding for schools, but they do raise important questions about how we spend money.
The County Board’s role is not to get deeply into the details of the Arlington Public Schools’ (APS) budget, but instead to partner with APS in making sure that schools are funded to meet our commitment to a world class education system and that, broadly, the investments we are making in capital are efficient. Partnership along with persistent commitment to solving challenges is what we need from the County Board.
We must value our teachers and school staff so that we attract and retain the community which makes Arlington schools excellent. We must provide enough schools and classrooms to educate all of our students well. However, part of investing wisely in our schools is recognizing that we will need to adapt to continued growth by saving on construction costs and exploring innovative solutions to staff our schools so that all students receive a quality education.
The Economic Value of our School System and a Fourth High School
In the long term, we must recognize that economic growth will be heavily influenced by the quality of our schools. To keep our schools operating at a world class standard, I believe we must work to reduce construction costs and find efficiencies, while also committing to finding the funds necessary to build a fourth high school.
I have served on the Budget Advisory Council for Arlington Public Schools since 2014 and served as Chair of that committee since June of 2017. In this capacity, I have examined first-hand the fiscal challenges we face in both the operating and capital budgets for Arlington Public Schools. I’ve served on committees charged with addressing the opportunity and achievement gaps that disproportionately impact students with disabilities, low income students and students of color. As a former teacher, I understand the needs of the classroom.