As former School Board members (2013 through 2015), we understand the challenges faced by our school system. Students come into our buildings from many countries, speaking many different languages, with many different disabilities, and levels of ability. Yet for 180-plus days per year, ACPS’s more than 2,000 employees give them every ounce of effort possible, more than anyone could expect for the money they are paid. (Not to mention the hundreds of volunteers who do the same.) The results are showing. You can not only see it in the data (which itself tells an important but very small piece of the story) but you can see it in a more important way by talking with students who have benefited from this work.
Now it is budget time, the season for the annual community debate about how much to spend on our schools. We write today on the specific issue of the ACPS Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budget. Decades of neglect (as well as declining or stagnant enrollment that lulled the community into thinking ACPS did not need much CIP support) have left our buildings overcrowded and falling apart. These conditions directly impact student achievement. They directly impact teacher retention, which in turn also affects student achievement. In the past five or so years, ACPS has been creative in trying to find ways to improve the situation. Staff and board have tried desperately to strike a balance between adequate improvement/expansion and the limited financial resources of the city. As a city, we can only kick the can so far down the road. That needs to end now.
Credit is cheap right now. We implore the City Council to issue bonds to invest — yes, we used the term “invest” because this is an investment in our community — in our school system. The time for nit-picking has come to an end. Teachers who need adequate work space are not nit-picking. Students with disabilities who need resource rooms are not nit-picking. Art teachers who simply want a classroom for students’ creativity to bloom are not nit-picking. These are basic needs of a public school system.
We have worked personally with most of these council members and we know the entire council cares about this community and has an instinct to do the right thing for the children of the city, who also happen to the be the future adults of the city. It is now time for the rest of the community to stop the bickering and own up to our responsibility to properly fund our schools.
Former ACPS School Board members