Filling in the Blanks with Melanie Kay-Wyatt: Budgeting for a quality education

Filling in the Blanks with Melanie Kay-Wyatt:  Budgeting for a quality education

In presenting the Alexandria City Public Schools 2025 Combined Funds Budget to the School Board on January 4, I drew inspiration from the great civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., Ph.D., whose memory we celebrate this month. 

King realized the importance of equal access to education, believing that education was key to unlocking one’s full potential. To this day, his efforts continue to inspire educators and policymakers as we strive to ensure every student has access to a quality education. 

ACPS’ proposed 2025-CF Budget presents a solid game plan of division priorities for students and staff. The budget also offers the means to bring to life the mission, vision and goals of the ACPS Equity for All 2025 Strategic Plan as it puts emphasis on providing an equitable education for our students, supporting our families and addressing the needs of our staff. 

Our budget plan helps in building a culture of continuous improvement, and designing equitable systems of instruction. With attention to excellence, it ensures all students have access to and can engage with high-quality instruction. Addressing the opportunity gap, our spending plan provides programs and supports that reduce barriers to learning. 

The key areas of focus addressed in the 2025-CF Budget include recruitment and retention, increased staffing based on enrollment, opening of the new ACHS Minnie Howard Campus, middle school athletics funding and Facilities and Operations funding, including for safety and security and technology services, including cybersecurity. 

Retaining and developing a quality staff provides consistency for our students and enables the school division to operate efficiently. Efforts to recruit and retain quality staffing within ACPS include competitive salaries and benefits. Based on our enrollment needs we look to increase staffing, with additional English Learner, Specialized Instruction and homeroom teachers. 

Our budget also addresses the support needed for the opening of the new ACHS Minnie Howard Campus in August 2024 and new pathways offered for our students to fulfill their aspirations. Middle school athletics funding includes dollars spent for equipment, uniforms, stipends and transportation. 

Aiming to create a welcoming environment for students, staff and the Alexandria community, increased funding for our Department of Facilities and Operations is an investment in making our schools a safe space. Technology funding is also necessary in mitigating cyber-threats. 

In addition, our adopted fiscal year 2025-34 Capital Improvement Program Budget supports ongoing facility needs and sustainability initiatives to enhance our learning environments. It includes allocating resources for the modernization of George Mason Elementary School and continued capital investment planning for Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology. 

The CIP Budget also provides funding for improvements to our schools’ exterior playgrounds and sports areas as well as enhancing the ACPS transportation facility through modernization efforts. 

I am proud to say that our budget priorities within ACPS live true to King’s legacy of advocacy for an educational system that addresses inequalities. ACPS strives to empower all of our students, helping them flourish and thrive. We are inclusive as reflected through our Family and Community Engagement Center, enabling all families to take an active role in their child’s educational experience. Our school division lives true to the words of King, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” 

On January 15, we celebrate what would have been King’s 95th birthday as we help carry on his good work to build community. I invite our ACPS families to take part in the budget process and provide your input at our 2025-CF Budget hearing on January 18. Through our budget priorities we celebrate ACPS’ diversity as an urban/suburban school division. Our 18 schools welcome students who hail from 119 countries and speak 121 languages. Together we are one team, on one journey. 

The writer is superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools.