The Arlington Public Schools will receive important benefits from the Proposition 2 1/2 operating override, which is on the ballot on June 11, along with the High School project. While Arlington spends less on education than the state average per pupil, our recent enrollment increases have caused us to fall further behind, declining from 97% of the state average in FY2011 to 89% in FY2018. We’ve seen the effects of this in our schools. While we’ve been able to add teachers at the elementary and middle schools to keep class sizes mostly stable, we’ve seen the number of large classes increase at the high school along with issues in providing sufficient sections of electives. Districtwide, we have been unable to add the support personnel we need, including nurses, counselors, reading and math teachers, curriculum coaches, and administrators.
This year, the school committee and administration worked together on a five year budget plan which included five areas of focus:
We must continue to direct significant resources to address enrollment growth, with 600 additional students expected over the next five years. Beyond classroom teachers, we need to add school counselors, nurses, reading teachers, etc.
We need to devote resources toward closing the achievement gap, which is the performance gap between our high needs students and the general population. This will include improving interventions for struggling students and enhancing special education delivery models.
We need to make targeted investments to improve instruction for students, such as adding librarians with digital learning expertise and replacing outdated curriculum materials.
We need to ensure safe and supportive schools by continuing to enhance social emotional learning and adding social workers.
Finally, we need to attract and develop talented staff by enhancing professional development and making compensation more competitive.
The override plan includes significant additional funding for the schools to implement many of the items in the five year plan. This additional funding will still leave Arlington spending significantly less than the state average, but should keep us from continuing to fall farther behind.
Importantly, approving the override will bring at least four more years of financial stability to the town and schools, allowing the school administration and staff to focus on important initiatives instead of constant concern over what will be cut from increasingly squeezed budgets. I hope you will join me in voting yes for both Arlington High School and for the operating override on June 11th.
Len Kardon is Co-Chair of Build Arlington’s Future and a member of the Arlington School Committee