By Karen Graf
On Monday night, city council made its final adjustments to Alexandria’s fiscal 2017 budget.
This year’s budget process has given even the most cynical cause to pause. We saw positive community engagement and participation. We saw collaboration, discussion and, most importantly, we saw the city and Alexandria City Public Schools working together to plan for the future of our community. This year’s budget is a sign of balance and progress. City Manager Mark Jinks and city council need to be commended for their work.
Why is it imperative that the residents of our city invest in ACPS? In the last several years, Alexandria has been striving for equity in the city’s offerings and excellence in the results of the investment we make as taxpayers.
Schools make a positive difference in the economy and community of Alexandria, and we will see their impact in the near future. The investment made in education is sound and will show returns. When the school board and city council worked through this budget, we also looked at ACPS’ future impact to make sure we are building up our city and investing in a future generation.
It is commonly known in city planning that investing in schools works towards a better society, housing market and business community. A well-educated and engaged population will feed local economies, boosting the profits of stores and other service businesses.
The positive results of this budget can be attributed to several layers of government that have invested in education through policy at the local, state and federal level. Last year, the federal
government offered waivers to states that could show evidence of curriculum and benchmarking for their state’s educational system.
Virginia is ahead of its time in that it has created formulas that look at individual student needs of each district. This means that Alexandria faces fewer obstacles than other states when it comes to funding educational supports for children living in poverty.
But even with good federal and state policymaking, most of the funding is produced through local support. Alexandria funds more than 80 percent of the public schools’ budget.
This year, city funding is helping to meet the growing student population and to continue the work toward equity and excellence in our city. ACPS is progressing and the city’s investment this year will show returns as well. Thank you, city council and Mr. Jinks; you deserve gratitude for your thoughtful work to sustain the future of our historic city.
The writer is the chairwoman of the Alexandria City School Board.