Albemarle County Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Matthew Haas, presented a school division funding request this evening for the 2021-22 school year that he said will make the division stronger than it was prior to the pandemic.
The proposal is supported by a projected 6 percent increase in recurring revenues and expenditures, fueled in large measure by a combination of strong economic results in the county and state. State revenues, for example, would rise by nearly 10 percent, or $5.2 million, and locally, the county’s share of the school budget would climb by 5.2 percent, or $6.9 million. Also contributing to the division next year will be over $6 million in federal CARES funds, which will support learning recovery programs.
Based upon recurring revenues, the funding request is a $12 million increase from the current budget. Added to these revenues is another $4.1 million in operational savings realized this year, which will be applied to next year’s budget. This brings the total funding request for 2021-22 to $209.9 million. For the second year in a row, Haas presented a balanced funding request to the School Board.
The school division is projecting that student enrollment next year will reach just over 14,000 students, an increase of 838 students, the equivalent of adding a middle school.
“No school division in our nation could have been fully prepared for the immediate and radical displacement of our school and family lives that confronted us in March of 2020,” Haas said. “Yet,” he added, “in this new learning environment, our teachers and staff expanded the frontiers of creativity and engagement. And so did our families, who are often at the side of their children as they interact with teachers and engage with learning activities at home.”
Nearly two-thirds of the increase in expenditures will fund salary increases for employees and establish a $15 per hour minimum wage for full-time regular employees. A year ago, the pandemic erased salary increases that had been approved by the School Board as well as the $15 minimum wage.
The increases, the Superintendent pointed out, will allow the division to better remain competitive with neighboring school divisions and to help ensure it is able to recruit and retain highly qualified professionals to support students.
“Our educators and support staff make success possible for students. While compensation increases are not the only way to demonstrate their value to our mission, they go a long way toward helping employees meet their own financial needs. Our employees have been a constant source of support for our children and families during this highly volatile year. I hope our efforts will help them and their families to recover in the year ahead, just as we all hope to see our local community recover,” Haas said.
In underscoring the performance of employees during the pandemic, Haas pointed to the 17 school nurses assisting with the COVID-19 vaccination program as members of the Emergency Medical Corps; the countless visits to student homes by principals and teachers; the hands that were raised by our Child Nutrition team members and bus drivers who volunteered to distribute student meals from schools empty of students; the enthusiasm and commitment from a Technology team that brought internet service into the homes of thousands of our students; our Building Services staff whose job descriptions instantly broadened to become even more crucial to public health; and all within our community whose devotion to our mitigation strategies, in the words of the health department, made our schools among the safest places in the community.
“These are strengths that surely will outlive the pandemic and make more certain the fulfillment of our goal for students—that all become more successful throughout their lives as continuous learners, fully employed workers in careers that interest them, and valued contributors to their communities,” he said.
Among the programs that will benefit from the stronger state and local economy are two that directly impact student health and academic performance. In place of School Resource Officers, the division will be hiring School Safety Specialists, who will focus on best practices for student, employee, and school visitor safety. “This team,” Haas said, “will be designed to improve our school climates, student attendance, and in-school relationships with students.”
Also, the division will expand its highly successful Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) program by requiring all newly-hired teachers to earn a micro-credential or certification in CRT strategies and practices within the first three years of being hired.
On the subject of improvements, the division plans on using CARES money to offer community and school-based summer programs to all students. The division will contract with community youth and service providers who have proven expertise in addressing the social, emotional and physical health needs of children from pre-K through 12th grade. The division would also continue to offer academic enrichment programs during the same time.
An important outcome of the division’s virtual learning model over the past year, Haas emphasized, was the substantial increases in community engagement with school division decisions. With most meetings conducted over the Zoom online platform, in-person attendance that generally attracted fewer than 20 people, increased to more than 1,000 online participants.
“We conducted more surveys on more issues, heard from more families and employees, and received more insight than ever before on how to solve issues that continue to deeply impact family lives. It is a collaboration that will make us stronger than before,” he said.
Information on the funding request, including the Superintendent’s letter, is available on our 2021-22 Budget Development web page.
Following the Superintendent’s remarks this evening, the School Board will hold the first of three work sessions on the funding request. The Board will hold additional work sessions on February 25 and March 4. A public hearing on the funding request also will be held on March 4. The Board is expected to adopt the funding request on March 11. In April, it will hold a work session on learning recovery, and the Board is expected to adopt a budget for the 2021-22 school year in May.
CONTACT: Phil Giaramita, Strategic Communications Officer