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Efficiency Review of Arlington Public Schools, Part III

The consultants who performed the efficiency review of the Arlington Public Schools got a “thumbs up” from the editors of the Arlington Sun Gazette this week. According to the Sun Gazette’s editors:

“To the county school system’s efficiency consultants, who have offered a provocative question: Is Arlington Public Schools’ insistence on lowest-in-the-region class sizes actually hurting, rather than helping, student achievement?

“The consultants peg the cost of keeping class sizes artificially low at $30 million a year in personnel and facilities costs, and – without offering a recommendation either way – say school officials should investigate whether that money could be used for initiatives and programs that would better close the county’s appallingly large achievement gap, and push all student achievement higher. (emphasis added)

“School Board Chairman Abby Raphael and Superintendent Patrick Murphy each publicly promised to consider the provocative question. Having been raised, let’s hope the school system does so.”

For the record, we growled on May 11 when the efficiency review was presented to the school board, and growled again on May 13 when we took an initial look at peer group comparisons.

The extra tax burden born by Arlington County taxpayers may be even greater than that $30 million. Consider the cost-per-student of the Fairfax County Public Schools for FY 2012 was $12,820 while Arlington Public Schools had a cost-per-student for FY 2012 of $18,047. Multiplying that difference of $5,227 by Arlington’s 22,245 students means the extra tax burden may be as much as $116 million. Doing the same calculation with the Montgomery County Public Schools cost-per-student of $14,776 means the extra tax burden born by Arlington County taxpayers may be as much as $72 million. Sure is something to think about.

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