Arlington parents call for increased teacher pay, smaller class sizes in next year’s budget

A group of parents in Arlington, Virginia, is urging the county’s board to allot additional funding to its school system in the next fiscal year’s budget.

The group Arlington Parents for Education said in a letter to the board this week that more money should be provided so that class sizes can be smaller, teacher pay can be competitive with surrounding school districts and student mental health and learning loss can be addressed.

The organization describes itself as “a grassroots, bipartisan community group advocating for accountability, transparency and excellent educational outcomes in Arlington Public Schools.”

The letter calls for funding schools at an additional 4% beyond the current budget, which the group said will make the school system’s budget 40% of the county’s overall budget.

The requests come as schools systems and county officials across the D.C. region work to finalize budgets. A sixth Arlington County schools budget work session is scheduled for Thursday night.

Miranda Turner, an Arlington parent and APE member, said providing more funding to the school system is essential to remaining competitive with surrounding school districts.

“Our letter’s really intended to focus attention on things that support a high-quality public education,” Turner said. “That is a really critical piece of background because it means we’re really rowing in the same direction as, what I assume, APS and the school board and county board are all in favor of. We just want really a strong school system for our kids.”

Superintendent Francisco Duran’s most recent budget proposal totals more than $748 million — the latest revisions restore funding for four full-time psychologist and social work positions that were previously eliminated because of reduced enrollment, according to school board documents.

The parent group said in its letter that, while it supports proposed increases in teacher pay and plans to make classes smaller, “the proposal does not go far enough in either category.”

Duran’s proposed budget features a 2.6% cost of living increase and plans to reduce class size by two students in elementary schools and one student in high school districts.

In a statement, board chair Katie Cristol said: “The County Board is thrilled to be fully funding the School Board’s adopted budget, at $584,400,000, which prioritizes student well-being and academic progress, recruitment, hiring, and investment in a high-quality and diverse workforce and improvement of operational efficiency.”

Parents are also urging the county to fund resources to aid students who are recovering from the pandemic “emotionally and academically,” by using tutoring programs and summer school initiatives.

Turner said that school board member Mary Kadera has expressed interest in finding more funding for tutoring initiatives.

County and school board members, Turner said, are “moving in the right direction” regarding additional teacher pay increases. There’s also a “widely-shared concern about mental health,” she said.

The county is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the school board’s proposed budget on May 5. Approval of the final budget is expected May 12.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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