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Grading the Arlington Public Schools

The Education Intelligence Agency has finished posting current spending statistics for elementary and secondary schools by district for all states. The numbers compare the changes in enrollment, K-12 full-time equivalent (FTE) teachers, per-pupil spending, and per-pupil spending on compensation from 2001 to the 2005-2006 school year.

A look at the six school districts in Northern Virginia was somewhat surprising. Fortunately for Arlington County taxpayers, there was an actual decrease in enrollment of 2.16% while enrollment changes ranged from -4.69% for Alexandria to 48.74% in Loudoun County, and included a 4.69% increase in Fairfax County.

Surprisingly, the Arlington Public Schools had the lowest change in the number of FTE K-12 teachers, showing just a 0.16% increase. By comparison, the number of teachers in Fairfax Country increased 13.10% while teachers increased by 78.90% in Loudoun County -- both growing much faster than the growth in enrollment.

For the six school districts, however, Arlington had the highest per-pupil spending for FY 2005-2006 although the change since 2001 was only the third highest. The numbers for per-pupil spending and changes in spending for the six districts are:

                            Per-Pupil Spending    Change since 2001
Fairfax County                $11,909                31.77%
Prince William County       $9,253                33.23%
Loudoun County               $11,484                46.82%
Arlington County              $16,338                43.48%
Alexandria                      $16,052                 41.99%
Falls Church                    $16,130                 43.94%

For the record, Arlington’s cost per student has increased 16.6% since 2001 to $19,195  (in the Superintendent’s proposed budget for FY 2009). The CPI, according to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, has increased, by 12.5%, or 4.2% annually, by comparison for the same three years.

So while the Arlington School Board is to be complimented on holding the number of teachers under control, the School Board deserves no kudos at all for controlling the school spending. So a B+ and a C- averages to a C+.

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