Speech to the County Board: 04232020
Good evening members of the county board and Manager Schwartz. On behalf of the 1900 members of the Arlington Education Association, many of whom are Arlington residents, my name is Josh Folb, Chair of the Arlington Education Association Compensation Committee. I am also a resident of Columbia Heights.
We are certainly living in interesting times, and circumstances that would never have been imagined just 3 months ago. However, here we are and must play the cards we have been dealt. My ask is simple in these absolutely, unprecedented times: dip into the rainy fund to allow the schools some room to breathe in a budget that has been slashed even though enrollment has increased. How much you wish to offer depends on how many programs and services that are not bare-bones core you would like APS to keep.
If these weren’t such dire times, I would have spent my time decrying a revenue sharing agreement that fails to acknowledge that the schools are growing at a rate 4 times the overall Arlington population and where Arlington’s support for its schools ranks with its neighbors. But today’s argument for money is for far different reasons. To say that the schools should be happy to get 2 million more than last year is disingenuous at best, given the growing population of school students.
With the exception of safety services, Arlington County Government has wide latitude on how it can scale back its services to get through trying times, from offering fewer park services, reducing hours of facilities to prevent overtime, raising (or lowering) requirement criterion to access DHS services, deferring road, street and sewer projects, increasing a long list of fees and on and on. The schools, on the other hand, have very few of those levers in their toolbox. Arlington Public Schools, by law must serve every child who walks in the door, period. And if that student is identified as requiring special education or English language services, we must provide those services, with fidelity every single time. And these required services cost monies; money that cannot be deferred.
On behalf of the 1900 members of the Arlington Education and the children they serve, open the rainy-day fund and give the schools the lifeline they need to move forward.