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If the money is there, Arlington Public Schools will spend it!

We’ve growled before about the so-called revenue sharing agreement (RSA) between Arlington’s County Board and School Board that allows the School Board to avoid accountability over the tax revenues entrusted to them, e.g., February 16, 2009 and June 7, 2009. Because the RSA computes the “county transfer” according to a predetermined formula rather than upon the determination of need, there is no accountability (for details of the RSA, see item E.3. on the School Board’s 11/5/09 agenda).

The lack of School Board accountability is manifested in historical numbers that staff provided to the County Board at their March 9 budget work session. For the schools, one of the columns contained cost per pupil data for FY 1998 through FY 2011 that you can access here.

The cost-per-pupil for FY 1998 was $9,330 while the cost per pupil will be $17,942 for FY 2011 that begins July 1, 2010. Using the U.S. Department of Labor’s CPI inflation calculator, we learn that if the School Board had maintained the cost per pupil to no more than the the rate of inflation, Arlington County taxpayers would see a cost per pupil of only $12,406 rather than $17,942, a difference of $5,536. For the 20,933 students expected to enroll in the fall, APS will receive a windfall of over $115 million in FY 2011.

While the School Board can undoubtedly explain where some of the $115 million is spent, e.g., lower class size, Arlington County taxpayers need a better system of accountability from the Arlington Public Schools. However, the question is how much more productive are the Arlington Public Schools because of the $115 million windfall?

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