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The Right Note: A Small Win for Transparency

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyLast week, the Arlington School Board approved a plan to begin publishing a written explanation to go along with its budget. Laying out clearly defined rationale will provide the public with important information, but it will also help the Board evaluate the budget as it is being formed. As someone who regularly calls for more transparency and accountability from our local government, I believe this is a positive step in the right direction.

This is certainly one part good government transparency, one part heading off as many questions as possible on specific line items, and one part ensuring the budget is carried out by the Superintendent in the way the Board intended. Whatever the impetus was for providing the information, any time taxpayers get a more complete picture of how and why their money is being spent, it is a good thing. Board Member Noah Simon deserves credit for moving the ball forward with his colleagues.

The next step to ensure accountability for the budget is for the School Board to require the Superintendent to put the “check register” online, at least monthly. The Board members can certainly access this information, but if they want public accountability, words and explanations before the money is actually spent will not ultimately be enough.

By providing near real-time accountability for spending, parents would better be able to assess the priorities of the school system. Teachers would be able to see how much money makes it to the classroom versus being lost somewhere in the administration. The taxpayers would be able to identify whether or not the money is being spent wisely. And, the big winners would ultimately be the students when they receive maximum educational value of school spending.

One explanation that will hopefully be provided next year is how the Superintendent reports the per pupil spending numbers. As I wrote earlier this year, the actual per pupil spending and reported per pupil spending do not seem to add up. The per pupil number reported in the proposed budget was roughly $3,354 less than the actual per pupil spending, according to my back of the envelope calculation.

In Arlington, I doubt there would be enough public pushback over the higher number to cause an outcry for a lower schools budget. However, at university level costs of over $22,000 per student, it does warrant an actual explanation. I look forward to reading it.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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(This Community Post was written by the [Arlington Chorale](http://arlingtonchorale.org/) and underwritten by [Embracing Arlington Arts](https://embracing-arlington-arts.org/).

Since the Arlington Chorale returned to in-person singing one year ago, local amateur singers have been signing up for auditions in unprecedented numbers. “Thirty of our current members joined within the last year,” says Ingrid Lestrud, Artistic Director. “Many of them have recently moved to Arlington, and they want to join a community. Chorale members get to sing beautiful music and meet a diverse group of people who love singing as much as they do!”

The singers are busy preparing their December 10 concert, Christmas Joy! Featuring John Rutter ‘s Magnificat and Kirke Mechem’s _Seven Joys of Christmas_ , audiences will hear familiar Christmas carols, as well as beautiful music with hints of tango, musical theatre, and jazz. The singers will be accompanied by a chamber orchestra of local professional players, and the concert will highlight the talents of soprano Helena Colindres. Members of the Chorale’s outreach group, the Youth Community Council, and select singers from the Chorale will be singing Christmas carols outside the venue as audience members arrive. After the performance, everyone is invited to join the singers downstairs for a reception with light refreshments. It’s a special community event you won’t want to miss! Tickets are $20 for adults and free for children under 12 available here. Please join the Arlington Chorale on **Saturday, December 10 at 5:00 PM at Westover Baptist Church!**

Submit your own Announcement here.

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