Fairfax County Executive Ed Long has recommended giving the county's school system a 2 percent increase in funding over the transfer it received last year. But at Tuesday night’s public hearing on the county’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget plan, schools officials and advocates said it still wasn't enough.
Fairfax County School Board Chairman Ilryong Moon kicked off the first day of public input on County Executive Ed Long’s proposed $7 billion budget plan, asking the Board of Supervisors for a higher transfer to the school system.
Long’s budget, , provides the school system with $1.72 billion – approximately $62 million less than the school board was hoping for.
Moon told supervisors Tuesday night he and his colleagues on the school board, who were in the audience, had been able to lower their initial request for an increase in transfer from $95 million to $78 million.
It was not clear at press time where those savings were coming from.
Schools officials say they need more money from the county to handle a projected increase in student enrollment of nearly 3,000 children, bringing the system’s total enrollment to more than 184,000 students.
“As more students enter our classrooms in FY2014, more teaching and staff positions are needed,” Moon told supervisors.
Moon also acknowledged while county employees were getting another freeze in pay raises, FCPS teachers were getting an increase of slightly less than 2 percent.
“We understand that pay raises have become somewhat of a luxury in the public sector during these difficult economic times,” he said. “However, there is an old adage that ‘you get what you pay for.’”
If Fairfax County continues to become less competitive in teacher compensation, the quality of education will drop and ultimately damage the economy, Moon said.
Entry salaries for teachers in Fairfax schools currently rank fifth among neighboring jurisdictions, Moon said. They held the top spot five years ago.
FCPS teachers and stakeholders also spoke in support of the school system’s $2.5 billion budget.
Michael Hairston, president of the Fairfax Education Association (FEA), urged supervisors to meet the school board’s full transfer request.
“Right now the individuals who stand to lose the most from this are the children,” Hairston said.
He also advocated for pay raises for teachers and FCPS employees.
“We’re the individuals who make Fairfax County Public Schools work,” he said. “Your decisions on our pay and benefits will be a demonstration of your belief in us.”
Kimberly Adams, president-elect at the FEA and an employee of Mosby Woods Elementary School in Fairfax, agreed.
"We cannot continue to lose ground and expect to maintain a world class system," she said.
The school board has designated $3 million of the potential transfer increase to cut down the waiting for Head Start, an early education program that will help the system close achievement gaps.
Supervisors said they appreciated the school board’s dedication to closing the gaps, particularly for students from non-English speaking and low-income backgrounds, but Supervisor Jeff McKay said he would have made cutting down the program's waiting list a more critical item in the budget.
“I might have found a way to fund Head Start as a baseline" as one of the first priorities in the budget process and "not contingent on the transfer,” he said.
He added he hoped it would be one of the first things schools officials fund in the future.