Reston, VA

I Am FCPSSeveral parents representing the #I Am FCPS advocacy group spoke to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at their last meeting of 2015 on Tuesday, asking the board to fully fund Fairfax County Public Schools for Fiscal Year 2017.

The group is comprised mainly of parents and was recently formed in response to the FCPS Budget Task Force report that looks at ways to slash $50 or $75 million from the budget for 2017.

FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza has said the school could be facing a shortfall in that range if the county supervisors give the schools the standard 3-percent increase in funding for next year.

I Am FCPS member Melanie Mehren, a Vienna resident, says the group has mobilized to write 12,000 letters and get 1,200 Facebook likes in the last month.

“We are asking for your leadership to determine how to fully fund the schools for the longterm,” she told the supervisors. “Funding has not kept pace with our growing and changing community. FCPS has grown at the rate of one classroom per day. We are now spending $1,000 less per child when compared with 2009.”

The Virginia General Assembly will determine in its January session how much money to give local school systems. After that, counties can work on what their contributions.

Garza has said a large portion of the school system’s rising costs are due to increases in compensation, rising health care costs and retirement fund contributions. The school system — now with 188,545 students — has a growing enrollment with an increased need for special services.

Garza will present her proposed budget in January. The final budget will be adopted by the school board in May — and it may contain changes such as increased class size, cutbacks in sports and activities and a reduction in staff positions, among others.

Board of Supervisor Chair Sharon Bulova said fully funding schools is the board’s No. 1 priority on their legislative agenda for the 2016 General Assembly. She pointed out that the problem begins at the state level.

“The state has reduced its share [of funding all Virginia schools] by $1 billion,” she said. “Counties have tried to make up the difference. In Fairfax, we have increased about $200 million for schools.”

Springfield Supervisor Pat Herrity pointed out that the board did fund 99 percent of school board requests last year. He also wanted to know how much FCPS is spending on its #SAVEFCPS campaign, which is not affiliated with #IAMFCPS.

FCPS gets about two-thirds of its funding from the county. More than half the county’s $2 billion in spending goes to education.

Rachel Stot, Kilmer Middle School PTA president, said a standard 3 percent transfer from the county “will leave a devastating shortage that will affect the whole community.”

“There are no acceptable cuts left,” she said. “Please fully fund the ask.”

Photo: Supervisor Chair Sharon Bulova

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