The beginning of a new calendar year is a time for all of us to reflect on progress and priorities. For Baltimore County Public Schools, it is also time to translate lessons learned and data-driven plans into a proposed operating budget for fiscal year 2016.
Our school system has garnered a lot of attention for integrating technology into instruction, but those of us in the school system have never lost sight of the fact that education is a human endeavor. At the heart of the educational process is the interaction between teacher and student, sharing information and ideas, and challenging and inspiring each other. And behind our 8,800 teachers are another 10,000 staff members -- from principals to accountants, groundskeepers to subject-area specialists, nurses to library media specialists, all working to make those positive classroom experiences possible. Our proposed budget for FY 2016 reflects appropriate Cost of Living Adjustments, which clearly demonstrate that all of our employees are essential and valued.
Because our staff is so talented and dedicated, we have been able to make significant progress in just a few years. A prime example of this is S.T.A.T. (Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow), which began this school year in 10 elementary schools, giving our youngest students in those schools more individualized instruction through the integrated use of one-to-one devices in student-centered learning environments. The principals of these schools, known as our Lighthouse schools, report that, because of S.T.A.T., students are more engaged, disciplinary incidents are down, and attendance has increased. Through our proposed FY 2016 budget, we seek to make the S.T.A.T. experience available to more students throughout Baltimore County.
Offering individualized, student-centered learning is imperative as enrollment in our schools continues to grow in numbers and diversity. In particular, increases in the number of students speaking languages other than English requires us to include in our budget staff and programming to support this student group. In the past 10 years, this student population has grown by over 181% to more than 4,200 students. This trend is seen throughout our state.
The funds required to offer a high-quality, equitable education to 110,000 diverse students are considerable, but investing these funds cannot be delayed. Other new year's resolutions can be made and forgotten before the end of January without much impact, but what we do -- or fail to do -- for our children can potentially change their lives and our future.