Schools seek cash

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Superintendent Rebecca L. Perry asked the Alexandria School Board for $202.01 million to operate the school system in FY 2009. This means an increase in the citys contribution of $12.97 million, or 8.1 percent over this year.

City Council had asked that the school system limit its budget growth to 5 percent.

According to Perry, changes in the budget fall into five areas: program enhancements, costs of enrollment growth, reductions and realignments, mandatory increases and essential increases.

Perry asked for an additional $0.54 million to fund program enhancements such as two academic specialists for differentiation at the two middle schools. This will allow for targeted instruction for students at all levels.

This amount also includes salaries for teachers in Chinese and pre-engineering, new course offerings at T.C. Williams. Mt. Vernon Community School will get an additional Spanish teacher for the dual language program, and T.C. will get an additional reading teacher.

Student enrollment increased this year for the first time since 2001, by 225 students, mostly at the elementary school level. The system is projecting that an additional 98 students will enroll next year. To support this increase, Perry is asking for an additional $1.86 million, which includes 26.1 new staff.

Perry said that staff, through an intensive review of the systems entire budget, found $3.88 million in reductions. She is proposing spending $3.42 million of that money for test proctors, ongoing literacy initiative funding, special education and the cost of educating homeless students.

It will also pay for substitute teachers, long-term sick leave, workers compensation and operational costs such as utilities, custodial supplies, building leases, legal fees and the triennial census for children with special needs.

Perry outlined $3.67 million in mandatory increases, such as compliance with new government accounting standards. Also included in this amount are increases from the Virginia Retirement System, the citys retirement program, medical and dental insurance costs, and funding of the ongoing post employment benefit liability.

Finally, Perry is proposing an additional $7.15 million in essential increases. Most of that money, $5.09 million, is for step increases for all eligible employees and a market rate adjustment of 1 percent for all ACPS staff.

Additionally, Perry is proposing a longevity step increase for employees at the top of the salary scale, at a cost of $0.39 million. ACPS is losing No Child Left Behind grants that support teachers at four elementary schools. Part of the remaining essential increases would be used to pay these teachers salaries.

Although Alexandria City Public Schools has dramatically improved the academic performance of students in grades K-12, we must focus our efforts on those students and schools most in need of help, while ensuring that children already meeting the basic state standard are challenged, said Perry.

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