Superintendent George Arlotto today recommended to the Board of Education a $1.1 billion operating budget for Fiscal Year 2016 that would facilitate compensation increases for all employees and place a heavy emphasis on early literacy, elementary education, and English Language Learners as part of a focused effort to attack achievement gaps in the youngest grades.
Dr. Arlotto’s recommendation includes $11.8 million for compensation increases, which will be finalized when negotiations with the school system’s employee bargaining units conclude. It also includes $2.4 million for 33 additional classroom teaching positions necessary to address continued enrollment growth, which has seen Anne Arundel County Public Schools poised to surpass the 80,000 student mark next year.
In the youngest grades, Dr. Arlotto’s recommendation provides $2.5 million for expansion of the Enhancing Elementary Excellence (Triple-E) program, now in place in nine schools in the North County cluster, to 19 additional schools in the Chesapeake, Meade, and Southern clusters. The expansion will bring enhanced instruction to nearly 12,000 elementary students next year and provide crucial planning time for more than 500 teachers.
Dr. Arlotto also allocated $1 million for additional early literacy and prekindergarten programs. The funding would provide increased teaching services to children in Birth to Age 5 programs and 12 classroom teacher and assistant positions to expand prekindergarten programs and provide additional service for another 240 youngsters across the county.
We are, indeed, very fortunate to be surrounded every day by employees, parents, volunteers, and elected officials who, despite the constraints, continually rise above the challenges to meet and exceed expectations,” Dr. Arlotto said in his budget address. “Those challenges, however, are growing. We are nurturing a wider array of young minds than ever before, and those minds come with more expansive learning styles and needs that we must address if we are to achieve the single goal in our Strategic Plan: To ensure that every student meets or exceeds standards, and that achievement gaps are eliminated.”
Also included in Dr. Arlotto’s recommendation is $1 million to continue expansion of the STEM middle school magnet programs at Old Mill Middle School South and Lindale Middle School, and launch a third STEM middle school magnet program at Central Middle School next year. It also includes $570,000 to continue the expansion of the Performing and Visual Arts magnet program.
The plan reallocates $14.7 million between and within departments to better focus resources on the needs of children. It also calls for $850,000 to add eight English Language Acquisition teachers to classrooms across the county, two employees in the International Student Services Office, and three bilingual facilitators to assist the growing number of Spanish-speaking families in the school system.
Dr. Arlotto also is setting aside $739,000 to purchase automated bus routing software and hire an analyst to implement a program that will run alongside the current transportation system during the upcoming school year and help identify any areas where more efficient bus routes can be created and additional options explored with regard to school start times.
“I believe that this is a practical first step that will yield valuable information as we continue the discussion of later school start times,” Dr. Arlotto said.
CAPITAL BUDGET RECOMMENDATION
Dr. Arlotto also recommended a $163.1 million capital budget to the Board. It would allocate more than $100 million to fund construction projects at Severna Park High School, and Benfield, Rolling Knolls, and West Annapolis elementary schools, and design work at Manor View, High Point, Cromwell, Jessup, and Arnold elementary schools.
The recommendation also contains $11 million for prekindergarten and kindergarten additions at Eastport and Georgetown East elementary schools as well as at the West Meade Early Education Center; $6 million for gymnasium additions at Millersville and Woodside elementary schools; and $5 million for open space classroom enclosures at Glen Burnie High School.
Details about Dr. Arlotto’s budget recommendation, a Budget In Brief, and the text of his remarks to the Board can be found on the AACPS website. 
BUDGET HEARINGS, WORKSHOP
The Board of Education has scheduled two public hearings and a public workshop on Dr. Arlotto’s budget recommendation. Public hearings will be held on Tuesday, January 6, 2015, at Old Mill High School, and Thursday, January 8, 2015, in the Board Room at the Parham Building in Annapolis. Both hearings begin at 7 p.m. Those wishing to testify can sign up beginning at 6 p.m. Testimony will be limited to three minutes per person.
A public workshop on Dr. Arlotto’s budget recommendation will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, January 20, 2015, in the Board Room at the Parham Building. No public testimony will be taken at the workshop.
The Board is scheduled to approve a budget request to forward to County Executive Steve Schuh in February. The County Executive’s proposal will be considered by the County Council before it adopts a budget that allocates funding within prescribed state categories in June. The Board may shift funding within operating budget categories before it approves a final school system budget no later than June 30.