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Citizens: Kill New Bell Schedule, Charge for Sports to Save FCPS Millions

by Karen Goff — July 31, 2015 at 9:00 am 29 Comments

FCPS BUs/Credit: FCPSFairfax County Public Schools are continuing to take citizen feedback on how to slash up to $100 million from the 2016-17 budget.

FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza said in June that the school system — which serves more than 180,000 students — may face a deficit that large if drastic action is not taken.

“It is not possible to maintain the level of excellence for which Fairfax County Public Schools is known when we are annually faced with making impactful cuts to the system,” Garza said in a statement. “While we have tried hard to protect the classroom to the fullest extent possible, we now have no choice but to consider cutting student programs and services.”

The FCPS Board approved a $2.6 billion budget for 2015-16. The board still needed to cut $7 million from the budget in order to cover such items as later high school start times (going into effect in the fall), the expense of full-day Mondays for elementary schools, and staff pay increases.

The school system says many of the cost drivers for 2016-17 are “items outside of FCPS’ control,” like retirement and enrollment increases, and providing competitive compensation for our teachers. FCPS the cost drivers include:

  • a growing student population with diverse needs.
  • increased state-required retirement contributions rates.
  • increased health insurance costs.
  • increased compensation for teachers.

The school system has organized a task force comprised of community members, teacher and school employees, among others, to brainstorm savings ideas.

It has also been asking residents for suggestions and to vote on other citizen suggestions.

Here are some of the hot topics on the FCPS “What Are Your Ideas?” web page. (Vote totals as of Thursday, July 30):

Keep the seven-period day at the secondary level (280 votes)

“Many students end up majoring in college subjects that are considered electives.
It will not save FCPS any money to go to a six-period day. It will mean the county has to hire more teachers to teach the classes mandated by the state.”

Keep all performing arts in schools (158 votes)

“Taking away performing arts programs is like taking away someones high school football dream. Not all kids can and or want to play sports, so why take away the one thing some kids enjoy doing. Taking away these programs takes away a part of someone’s life. This is all they know and love to do. Focus on the kids and how there life’s are impacted by such a powerful program. Think of the kids.”

Flip the discussion to increase revenue as opposed to decreasing services and staff (105 votes) 

“Fairfax County FCPS funding is antiquated and has a limited reach due to being tied solely to property tax. That formula worked great during robust economic times but as we have seen, it has failed at the expense of our educational excellence to our students. WE CANNOT continue to ‘cut’ our way out of the financial short falls that are facing our schools! Some possible revenue generating ‘out of the box’ ideas are:
• Luxury hotel and restaurant tax that is only geared toward FCPS funding.
• A FCPS lottery ticket through the Virginia Lottery that is only geared toward FCPS funding.
• An option on income tax forms to donate to FCPS for county taxes that are only geared toward FCPS funding.
• Corporate sponsors for sporting fields and their maintained costs.”

Defer the pay increase to the school board members (91 votes)

“The school board voted to increase their pay while teachers are only getting a nominal increase. This is outrageous. The School Board should not accept their pay increase and add that money back to help balance the budget.”

Increase property taxes, better schools benefit everyone in the community (89 votes)

“$52 a year, which is $1 a [week] is definitely not a problem for us. We all benefit from having better schools. It maintains our property value, especially since this is such a transient area. We apprciate the value of FCPS and our kids truly benefit compared to other educational programs in the nation. … SAVE the QUALITY OF FCPS. We moved here for the schools.”

Not spend the additional $4.9M to change the school schedule (86 votes)

“Save $4.9M per year by not changing HS start times! If the FCPS is facing such a budget challenge, why are we spending $4.9 million for this change at this time? This is almost 5 percent of the shortfall that can be recouped by simply not changing!”

Stop implementing short-sighted new programs, put focus on effective teachers (76 votes)

“Fix what works — equip good teachers with planning time, confidence, and fair compensation. Flashy new programs and initiatives are not proven, but dedicated, knowledgeable, and caring staff members are. Invest in teacher quality by making FCPS schools attractive workplaces. Teachers are the bedrock FCPS. Students, leaders, and programs come and go, but quality teachers like to stay. Don’t drive good teachers away!”
Repeal the Kings Dominion Law (71 votes)

“AP exams are held on a NATIONAL test date. Our students/teachers are cramming for the test yet have weeks left of school with not much to study/learn once the test has been administered. Those last weeks are a waste of time and resources. Having school start 2-3 weeks later than the rest of the nation causes undue stress on the teachers, administrators, and mostly the students who are involved with AP classes. Not that this will save money, but it will help with the stress of our teachers/students/admins.”

Charge for Sports (73 votes)

“We pay $350 for marching band, and that is a required activity since our kid was in Symphonic band during school. … Don’t drop sports, but charge a fee. I would rather see fees for things that are optional than cutting the availability of the arts and electives in schools. HS is the time when kids begin discovering who they are and what they want to be.”

Have the building principals publish what they spent their budget on. (67 votes)

“Make the spending choices transparent. I have been in meetings where we are told to think of things to spend the money on, or else we will “lose it.”  If we don’t need it, let’s save it. Our school spent money on all kinds of things that were silly or not used after paying out the money to start the program. If parents knew that $5,000 was spent on some reading testing program that was only used once, and was not needed, then maybe wiser heads would prevail.”

Eliminate or Scale Back IB (72 votes)

“FCPS currently has eight high schools with IB diploma programs, but most have very few IB diploma candidates and the per student costs associated with IB (IB coordinators at individual schools, test fees, payments to the IBO) are higher than the costs for AP.”

Eliminate Foreign Language Immersion Program (58 votes)
“In theory, the program sounds good, but when every dollar counts, it’s important to eliminate the programs that have low efficacy.”

To see more topics, to add your own or vote on others, visit the FCPS website.

  • Ming the Merciless

    So they were $7 million short on their $2,600 million budget. Waah, waah, waah. And as usual they put the most valuable and popular programs on the table for cuts in order to extort more money.

    How about some cuts to those four “cost drivers”, eh Karen?

    And why the heck did this post need to wait for approval?

    • Brian Pyatt

      how about cut the bloated central office. Pretty ridiculous how big it is. Most costs should be at the school level.

      • Emmanuel Goldstein

        This is a good argument to make, I would like to see spending trends for the equivalent of “middle management”, in this case the central office

        • Mike M

          They work very hard to obscure this cost.

      • east297

        Never to be touched! Just preparing for more outrageous benefits to be paid to the untouchables!

    • Reston Crimewatcher

      You are probably on Karen’s probation list.

  • Emmanuel Goldstein

    How much could be saved by removing ESL programs? Far too many resources being allocated for those that can not speak the English language

    • MaggieSays

      So we want people to learn English, but not provide them with the education to do so?

  • Ricky Spanish

    7 million short of a 2.6 billion dollar budget is only 0.2% In the grand scheme that number is in the brown noise.

    Gallup surveys have a far greater margin of error. In our society the FCPS Board should be commended for coming so close. Gold Stars for them.

  • Mike M

    “It is not possible to maintain the level of excellence . . .”
    If you can’t maintain excellence at $2.6B, your model is broken and/or your management is inept.

    The education mafia in this country has been drawing our blood and not delivering for years. They ALWAYS want MORE. How is it that countries who spend less, are touted as superior by testing? Are thes tests BS? Perhaps. But clearly we spend enough in Fairfax County.

    Perhaps its about time to take an honest look at where the money is really going.

    • Mookie Taylor

      “If you can’t maintain excellence at $2.6B, your model is broken and/or your management is inept.” That is absurd. It depends on how may people 2.6 B is serving. If the population is growing the budget must also grow to maintain the current level of service. Even if the population remains the same, inflation dictates that the budget must grow.

      • Mike M

        Oh dear, Mookie. If only it were that simple, we could put the school budget on autopilot with increases “to keep up with inflation” and demographics. That mentality is part of why the federal government is deeply in debt. That approach is step one in the mo’, mo’, mo’ model. Do the following matter to you?
        – Income and revenue? In other words what can we afford?
        – How is that big $2.7 B getting allocated? For example, if the county were spending $15K for the top 5% and $12K for the bottom 10% students, would that be OK if it meant they spend $6.5K on everyone else?
        – The FCPS plays games with the numbers? According to the census bureau Virginia spent an average of $10.7K per pupil in 2012, while the FCPS says we spent $9K. Does anyone believe Fairfax pays less than the rest of the state? I don’t.
        – Spending more doesn’t always achieve more. The US spends more than most on kids education and scores lower than many.
        – We can control growth in population and what we choose to buy. For example, if we are giving a $10K/year education to illegal immigrants, should we not look harder at immigration enforcement?
        Shouldn’t that growth and it’s costs advise the Board in approving the increase in the building of houses?

        Shouldn’t we stay focused on what we want for our expenditures rather than nominal amounts? How about the fact that

  • Emmanuel Goldstein

    Thank you for an excellent retort, I find this debate to be compelling. I would love to hear a counter-argument or other ways to save money.

    • Brian Pyatt

      It should be obvious why we need ESL, but if you really need a valid response here it is. We want productive citizens with options. If they can’t speak english this would dead end them mostly likely into either crime or very low paying jobs and or illegal jobs. My wife came to the US at age 12 and didn’t speak any english at all, ESL gave her the tools and ability to speak English. Without ESL she would not be the woman she is today.

      • Emmanuel Goldstein

        80 years ago when my grand parents came to this country they didn’t speak English either and the schools placate to those that had no desire to assimilate. It worked then, it could work now.

        • Brian Pyatt

          It betters us as a society to help assimilate, which is why we have programs like ESL.

          • Emmanuel Goldstein

            That argument would hold true if these people wanted to assimilate. America used to be a melting pot, now it’s just gunk floating on top of the soup

          • 2ndBreakfast

            Anger translator here, interpreting for the esteemed Emmanuel Goldstein: “I am old, scared of people who look different from me and bitter! I will post the same anti-immigrant racist comments again and again!”

          • Ming the Merciless

            Emmanuel incomprehensibly doesn’t want to live in a Third World country, which is the inevitable outcome of inviting hordes of people from the Third World to live here.

          • susie

            Ahhh yes. When you have no intelligent response — get personal and nasty. So typical and boring.

          • Mike M

            How much shall we spend to obtain this benefit?

          • Ming the Merciless

            This argument might be relevant if we actually wanted them to assimilate, which we don’t.

      • Mike M

        OK, but what percentage of the global population shall we accomodate?

        By the way, many immigrants came here in the past and learned it on their own. Germans, Italians, Poles, Greeks, etc. I happen to know for certain that is the best way to learn a language.

        In a related matter, I have heard from multiple credible sources that the Spanish program at South Lakes has been seriously damaged by the presence of many native Latin American speakers.

        • Reston Crimewatcher

          Its not ESL itself. If the kids are here legally, and they need help with language, fine. Its the illegals that are the problem. My kids went to Herndon Middle & there were kids from Latin America who failed Spanish. Go figure.

      • Ming the Merciless

        Oh we want productive citizens with options? So there’s no problem with deporting the unproductive non-citizens who aren’t part of that equation, then.

      • susie

        When did it become our obligation to pay for illegal immigrants and other immigrants to succeed in this country? When exactly did that change?

  • Max

    We may be the wealthiest county, but I am one of the poorest residents. Sure paying a little more in property taxes is not much, but everything adds up every time Fairfax county, The state of Virginia or the federal Govt raises taxes and it eats out off my measly paycheck. I have to decide to pay my mortgage or eat! FCPS needs to get their act together and balance their budget like the rest of us.

  • Ming the Merciless

    Ironically, I was talking about Garza, not you.

  • susie

    Anybody want to take bets on how many years before FCPS is destroyed? CA used to have one of the best school systems in the country — back in the 60s / 70s. Then the liberals got a hold of it and decimated it. So — how long folks? I say 10 yrs tops.

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