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Here are Changes That May Be Coming to Save FCPS Money

by Karen Goff November 10, 2015 at 10:00 am 36 Comments

Superintendent Karen Garza/FCPSFairfax County Public Schools’ Budget Task Force has completed its analysis, and on Monday presented Superintendent Karen Garza with its recommendations.

Among the suggested changes: fees for AP tests, increase in student parking fees, increase in class sizes and elimination of language immersion programs.

The task force has been working since last summer on finding ways to narrow a projected $50 million or $75 million budget gap for FCPS for 2016-17. The group, which also considered input from the community, is working with two numbers because it is still unknown how much funding it will get from the commonwealth and Fairfax County.

Budget cutting is still a work in progress. Rather than present a list of definite services and programs to be changed in order to save money, the group ranked ideas that emerged as the most popular among the group and community suggestions.

“It’s important for parents and all of our stakeholders to understand that the Task Force has made a recommendation and no decisions have been made,” Garza said. “It is still up to me and the School Board to determine how to develop a budget for next school year that will support all of our operational needs. However, reductions will be unavoidable unless we receive sufficient revenue to meet our expenditure requirements. As is clear in the Task Force report, it is difficult to reach a clear community consensus on these difficult and unpleasant reductions. As I’ve said all along, we cannot cut our way to excellence.”

The Budget Task Force said it prioritized its recommendations by considering the percentage of agreement among Task Force members on individual suggestions. It also note the percentage agreement among members of the community, as reflected through the budget proposal tool and comments submitted at community outreach meetings, and online via an interactive budget tool.

There will be many more school board work sessions and community meetings on the budget as the process continues. Garza will present her budget in January, and after more discussion, the final budget will be adopted in May.

Garza asked the Budget Task Force to keep in mind six criteria when evaluating potential cuts:
1. Number of students impacted
2. Effect on employees and students
3. Disruption to the system
4. Permanent cuts instead of “one time” cuts
5. Magnitude of the cut
6. Student outcomes especially on the core instruction

The school system will not reduce the the seven-period day or full-day kindergarten or the contract length for teachers. The task force hopes to protect the employee’s step- and cost-of-living increase in order to remain competitive with nearby districts, FCPS said.

Here are some of the suggested cuts that received more than 75 percent agreement. To see a full list of suggestions and their rankings, visit the FCPS website.

$50 Million Scenario (savings amount in parentheses) 

  • Increase community use fees by 40 percent ($0.5 million)
  • Increase student parking fees from $200 to $300 ($0.5 m)
  • Athletics Fee ‐ Charge a fee of $200 per sport per student with a fee
    waiver applied to students eligible for Free and Reduced‐price Meals
    ($3.6m)
  • Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate Test Fees ‐
    Require students to pay all test and registration fees with a fee
    waiver applied to students eligible for Free and Reduced‐price Meals
    ($3.8m)
  • Language Immersion Programs ‐ Eliminate the program ($1.9m)
  • Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) Fees ‐ Require students
    to pay all test and registration fees with a fee waiver applied to
    students eligible for Free and Reduced‐price Meals
    ($0.1m)
  • Class Size for Elementary School Advanced Academic Program ‐
    Increase the class size formula by 1.0 student per teacher
    ($1.1m)
  • High School Staffing ‐ Exclude students enrolled in online & academy
    classes from the calculation of base school teacher allocations
    ($3.3m)

$75 Million Scenario

  • Student Parking Fee ‐ Increase the fee from $200 to $300 and
    maintain the current reduction percentages for students eligible for
    Free and Reduced‐price Meals ($0.5m)
  • Pupil Placement Fee ‐ Charge an application fee of $300 per student
    for any student attending a school other than his or her base school.
    Apply fee waiver to students eligible for Free and Reduced‐price
    Meals and FCPS employees ($1.5m)
  • Community Facility Use Fees ‐ Increase fees by approximately 40 percent ($0.5m)
  • Substitute Teacher Pay ‐ Reduce the daily rate of substitute pay to the average of the surrounding Virginia school divisions ($2.3m)
  • Athletics Fee ‐ Charge a fee of $200 per sport per student with a fee
    waiver applied to students eligible for Free and Reduced‐price Meals ($3.6m)
  • Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) fees ‐ Require students
    to pay all test and registration fees with a fee waiver applied to
    students eligible for Free and Reduced‐price Meals ($0.1m)
  • Language Immersion Programs ‐ Eliminate the program ($1.9m)
  • Summer School Intervention at Elementary & Middle Schools ‐
    Eliminate remedial summer school excluding Special Education and
    Bridges to Kindergarten ($3.0m)
  • Class Size for Elementary School Advanced Academic Program ‐
    Increase the class size formula by 1.0 student per teacher ($1.1m)
  • Class Size for Middle School Advanced Academic Program ‐ Increase
    the class size formula by 1.0 student per teacher ($0.7m)
  • High School Staffing ‐ Exclude students enrolled in online & academy
    classes from the calculation of base school teacher allocations ($3.3m)
  • Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate Test Fees ‐
    Require students to pay all test and registration fees with a fee
    waiver applied to students eligible for Free and Reduced‐price Meals
    ($3.8m)
  • Late (After School) Bus Service at High Schools ‐ Eliminate the one
    day of late bus service ($0.7m)
  • Needs‐Based Staffing for Elementary Schools ‐ Reduce the additional
    resources allocated to schools based on the number and percentage
    of students eligible for Free and Reduced‐price Meals by 20 percent, with
    the impact to the highest poverty schools being mitigated by theState K‐3 program
    ($5.2m)
  • Needs‐Based Staffing for Middle Schools ‐ Reduce the additional
    resources allocated to schools based on the number and percentage
    of students eligible for Free and Reduced‐price Meals by 20 percent ($1.1)
  • Needs‐Based Staffing for High Schools ‐ Reduce the additional
    resources allocated to schools based on the number and percentage
    of students eligible for Free and Reduced‐price Meals by 20 percent
    ($1.2m)
  • Class Size Formula ‐ Increase the elementary school staffing formula
    minimum from 17 students per teacher to 19 students per teacher ($3.6m)
  • Elementary Band and Orchestra ‐ Begin both band and strings in 5th
    grade, delaying the beginning of strings from 4th grade to 5th grade
    ($2.0m)

Photo: FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza/file photo

  • Chuck Morningwood

    Here’s one more. Cut ESL by 50%. Get rid of All Day ESL by making the overwhelming majority of the kids in the Spanish Immersion class come from homes where Spanish is NOT the primary language.

  • meh

    How about we get rid of the sanctuary status of Fairfax County. Enforce single family residence rules on the books and cut ESL Funding. Also, do more to verify that the people coming to school live at the address they claim to live at

  • cRAzy

    The magically shrinking school budget deficit. Last year, they said it was $100 million. Then it dropped to $70 million. Now it could be $50 million.
    What this seems to show is that FCPS doesn’t know how to budget and spend money on what’s required rather than bells and whistles. Cut the posturing and manage our school system cost-effectively.

  • Greg

    All of the items in the $75m list are fluff and should go regardless of the budget shenanigans the boards play. Cut them all and reduce the property tax rate.

    • Jaye Baldwin

      Elementary instrumental music is not fluff; it’s one of the things that sets Fairfax County apart from nearby jurisdictions. Cut the things that work and watch the tax base move elsewhere.

      • Ming the Merciless

        Or, the people who want music and sports pay for music and sports, while the people who do not want music and sports do not have to pay for it.

        • ItsNotMyMoney

          It’s not just music and sports… the people who want their kids educated should pay for it, why do I have to be taxed for their kids to go to school? I don’t have any kids… how would you like to pay taxes for my pet’s obedience training?

          • Ming the Merciless

            People who fail to reproduce should pay significant extra taxes in order to underline their failure as a human being and as a life form.

          • Arielle in NoVA

            By your logic, people who don’t drive shouldn’t pay any taxes that go to road maintenance.

          • Greg

            There is reasonable compromise. As you may have noticed, we are moving toward toll-based funding for road expansion in VA. Those who drive and choose the faster routes pay more. Those who pay benefit those who don’t by freeing the free lanes and funding the fast lanes. Most of the free lanes gets upgraded when the toll lanes are added and things like pedestrian and bike access are vastly improved again at the expense of the toll payers.

            Basic roads, for things like public safety, are paid for and benefit all. Same with schools. Teach them to read and write, how to eat properly and how to file a tax return funded by all but the extras should be paid for by those who use and want them. No one needs to be educated in music ( starting in 4th grade no less,), a foreign language, or have played a sport to lead a productive, contributive life.

            What’s more, there are an infinite array of internet-based, mostly free, resources to do these enriching things. We have libraries and community centers and rec centers too. Any number of social-welfare organizations (scouts, YMCA, faith-based entities etc.) Far better time spent in/on one of these rather than facebook, instagram, snapchat and others.

      • Greg

        Yes it is fulf. Reading, math and, especially, writing are essential.

        If you want music education, pay for it privately — all of it from Kindergarten on — just as earlier generations right here in Fairfax County have.

        To (else)where will the “tax base” move if these fluffs are not offered elsewhere?

        • truth

          Language, Math, Science, Music & Art, Philosophy, Physical education all used to be core pillars of education that helped to produce “the greatest generation”. As we have removed each pillar we have ended up with a generation less prepared for the world. Today, we have elected leaders who cant reason because they haven’t been trained to think. We have fat kids with diabetes and cant run a mile. Language skills are weaker, Science labs without Bunsen burners in the name of safety, and a new math system where 5 X 3 doesn’t equal 15, it equals 5 sets of 3….
          Only allow citizens in our schools and give them a well rounded education.

          • Arielle in NoVA

            @Truth – You were doing great until that last sentence 🙁

      • Mike M

        Elementary music has been lobbied into an industrial approach at early ages. Many kids aren’t even ready for it in Elementary School. It is hugely wasteful. My first kid was bamboozled and pressured into band and orchestra. He got NOTHING out of either. We learned more with each kid.

    • Ming the Merciless

      But you will notice that we are talking about a $75m cut in a $2,600m budget. For some reason, only 2.8% of the budget is in play. Gee, why is that? Are we really supposed to believe that nothing in the other 97.2% could be cut?

      • Greg

        I would comment on simple things, but who in a bloated bureaucracy will fix them? For example, while voting last week I observed: every light (incandescents among them!) in the building was on but very few people or kids there. Many doors and windows were open, but the A/C was operating without restraint. Everyone in the voting room was dressed for the arctic Oh, and on a very sunny, pleasant day, every single parking lot light was on. Is energy free for Fairfax County? Don’t they teach about global warming and waste?

  • Arielle in NoVA

    Get rid of administrative extras first, before even touching the schools.

  • meh

    Anyone that wants free/reduced lunch must provide proof of citizenship along with their legal guardian. INS will be there to do the verification.

    Also reduce the allocation of funding for “special education”, just put the children into some state run mental facility and be done with it.

    • Karen Goff

      Really, Meh? I am taking it you don’t have anyone with special needs in your family. If you did, you would not say something like this in public. Also, we’re not getting into an illegal immigration debate on this thread. Warning you and others to stop that and stick to ideas the task force has put forth.

  • Yummy

    County residents should not have to pay for non citizens eating up our school resources. If the state of Virginia or the federal government doesn’t pickup the tab then the children should be barred from schools until the school system is fully paid. The supreme court says we have to educate them? Fine, let the supreme court justices open up their wallets and pay for it.

    • RestonResident

      Yummy, that’s a very mean stance to take. Why would you want to punish these poor non-documented workers children? Don’t you know it’s an act of love and compassion to open legal tax payers wallet and foot the bill for free lunch and English lessons not to mention other academia?

      We as a Catholic nation must look within and ask, what would Jesus do? I think he’d say, let’s increase every hard working land owner’s property taxes and use them on those that need it the most. And really, isn’t it better to have these children babysat than out on the street unsupervised 9 months out of the year?

  • meh

    Easy… 15 percent pay cut for teachers and school staff. Then institute incentive based pay.. So you can pay the teachers that do their jobs and care, and push the babysitters out the door.

    • Dan

      Denver tried that and had to discontinue the program when it was realized that paying teachers for the things that they did beyond their contract was going to cost the city a lot more than the old pay scale. Incentive based pay is a fantastic idea that our culture is unprepared to fund. The answer to almost everything our society has deemed necessary for children for the past 50 years has been to ask teachers to do it…for free.
      Sports, arts, sex Ed, character building, job placement, proper nutrition…etc etc etc.

      Want to cut the cost of education? Bring it back to academics and make parents take responsibility for parenting and educating their own kids beyond the 4-core. They have been getting relatively cheap babysitting for years.

  • Ming the Merciless

    What we are seeing here is the usual slimy tactic of putting the popular programs on the table for cuts first in order to head off any reduction in the budget increase they want.

    I say, let’s start by cutting the things Garza does not want us to cut.

    The task force hopes to protect the employee’s step- and cost-of-living increase

    Like this!

  • Ming the Merciless

    Since FCPS itself admits this is an issue driving increased costs, I fail to understand why it is forbidden as a topic of discussion here.

    • meh

      It seems you have factual evidence to back-up the claim that undocumented immigration is a problem in Fairfax County

  • sheik yerbouti

    the current generation of parents are looking forward to a future with out social security even though we are paying for it. Now, we cant offer our children the same electives, class sizes that we had growing even though we are paying more in taxes than our parents did thanks to a flood of people coming from the 3rd world who are not supposed to be here. Enough with the scare tactics, do the cuts and let the elected officials justify them.

    • AorBthereforeD

      Social Security is a pay as you go system, therefore you aren’t paying for your own benefits, but instead for those of current beneficiaries.

  • Mike M

    The fees game is really just piling on new taxes for those who dare to hold a decent job. Not everyone pays them. I think most would be surprised who simply chooses not to pay. So, if you are among those who do, you are paying for up to three others. This is just illegal taxation of the few to pay for the many. That’s how Socialism happens. What happens when they run me and many like me out of the tax district? Their ponzi scheme would collapse.

  • Animal Lover

    The MYP program should be cut before ANYONE gets added to classes. My children went through it. While great in theory, it’s really unnecessary.

  • east297

    Start funding by canning Garza!

  • Robin

    Well that would really suck if the FCPS eliminated the language immersion programs…and it would really wreck havoc on many elementary schools. Our school Lake Anne would become teeny because all the Spanish immersion students would have to go back to their base schools adding to class sizes that are already exceeded.

  • Ming the Merciless

    What the “task force” is not considering, and not putting in its list of “top ideas” (in my opinion, deliberately), is 100% relevant to this discussion and to Fairfax County taxpayers. It does not “hijack” the thread to note that major cost drivers are not on the table for cuts. Though I have no doubt that Garza would just looooove it if we only talked about the things she wants us to talk about, and never talked about the things she does not want us to talk about.

    • susie

      Excellent comment. Fairfax County is beginning becoming communist. If not already there.

  • Dan

    Cutting salaries for teachers would be silly. Teaching talent has become a very competitive marketplace as the things that used to keep the best teachers in place have been eroded (retirement funding and community respect). FCPS is already losing their best to neighboring districts and states. The most talented leave the profession entirely. Someone skilled in mathematics or the sciences might be willing to take a smaller paycheck to teach…but if they can’t support their family on that salary and are saddled with paperwork in a thankless job…why would they bother? Those below who like to throw out accusations of socialism should at least understand the idea of a competitive marketplace. The days of teachers staying put to teach in their community are over.

    Add up the last three major additions to the budget – all in the last few years. All day kindergarten + elimination of early close Monday’s (added operating costs and “specials” positions) + later start times for high school. The sum is scary close to the deficit. Maybe they should not have taken on costly new programs during an economic downturn? No matter how good the program might be, spending $ you don’t have is foolish.

    SLHS has AstroTurf fields that cost how much? A million if I recall correctly? Why isn’t anyone pissed about that?

  • Mom in the know

    After reviewing the the proposed cuts I don’t really see what the problem is. I believe that the proposed cuts are reasonable. adding 1 extra student to the classroom size is not a big deal. The ratio for student to teacher is small at 17_19 vs the baby boom era that had 25 students per class. As far as paying the fees for AP classes and PSAT welcome to the real world most parents having been paying for this in other states.

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