News Release 2/19/2021: School Board Approves ACPS Combined Funds Budget Focused on Recovery, Retention and Reigniting
On Thursday night, the Alexandria City School Board voted unanimously to approve the FY22 Combined Funds Budget which was proposed by Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. on Jan. 7, 2021. It focuses on addressing the need for supporting students, families and staff to recover from the dual impact on education of the COVID-19 pandemic and the reemergence of issues surrounding racial inequity.
This streamlined Combined Funds Budget of $322.7 million supports recovering from social, emotional and academic learning losses, recruiting and retaining our high-quality team, and reigniting a love of teaching, learning and leadership. In addition, the comprehensive financial blueprint provides for the resources and support necessary to continue the division’s efforts to keep racial equity at the heart of all work.
This figure represents a modest increase from the FY21 Final Budget of 1.4% which takes into account the economic challenges associated with the pandemic as well as an emphasis on efficiencies. Prior year increases have ranged in the region of 2-4%.
“In these challenging fiscal times, the School Board has relied on its partnership with the superintendent, staff, the city manager, and City Council to present a budget that is sound and fiscally conservative, while ensuring that ACPS continues to support an exemplar teaching and learning program, retains a high-quality team, and provides the tools necessary for the strategic implementation of academic and social emotional recovery in the aftermath of an extended period of virtual learning,” said School Board Chair Meagan Alderton.
“It has also been adopted at a time when we are seeing progress. We are phasing our students and staff into school buildings, which brings excitement and hope to families. I am proud that we have thoughtfully included the investments that our students and staff will need as they transition through this next phase.”
The School Board has approved significant funds be directed to the recovery of social, emotional and academic learning loss. In particular, this budget addresses the needs of our most vulnerable students, resulting in additional funding for regional Special Education programs, while additional reserve positions have also been added to the Approved Budget to support Students With Disabilities and English Learners.
Additionally, as we assess the effects of the dual pandemic, there is a clear correlation to the social and emotional toll on our students, and with that in mind, we have included funding for the social, emotional and academic learning supports across the division. A further $500,000 has been allocated for programming to support student social, emotional and academic learning needs.
The additional support needed to conduct targeted and impactful outreach to our hard-to-reach families has also been highlighted during this health crisis. Included in this budget are increased staffing allocations for Amharic and Arabic parent liaisons to address this need, and a customer relationship management specialist has also been funded to support the growing demands to effectively communicate with families through various channels.
To continue in the drive to boost our Hispanic male graduation rates, resources will be redeployed to add additional support in this area.
Another priority is the retention of staff by ensuring ACPS is an attractive place to work. Therefore, a step increase, totaling $5.7 million, is planned for all eligible staff along with a 1% one-time payment for those employees at the top of their scale. In addition, the School Board has approved a 1% bonus for all eligible staff for FY22. Eighty six percent of the total Combined Funds Budget is spent on personnel.
In the coming weeks, we will phase in students and staff to our school buildings, which requires a significant investment for health and safety measures. As we move into the new school year, this budget provides additional funds for the increased need for cleaning and building management due to new protocols necessitated by the pandemic.
In keeping with its commitment to place racial equity at the heart of all its decision-making, the School Board’s Approved Budget allows for the continued focus and implementation of the 2025 Strategic Plan: Equity for All.
The School Board will vote on new names for both T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School in April 2021 and the costs associated with this process are allocated in the new budget, which begins on July 1, 2021.
To facilitate community engagement in the budget adoption process, the School Board conducted three work sessions on the Combined Funds Budget in January and February and a Public Hearing was held on Jan. 21. City Council will adopt its budget — including the appropriation to ACPS — in the spring.
View the School Board memo with information on the budget (PDF) from the Feb. 18, 2021 Board meeting.