FCPS’ Garza Proposes Budget With Salary Increases and No Program Cuts

by Karen Goff January 7, 2016 at 1:00 pm 40 Comments

FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza speaking at West Potomac High School/FCPS Channel 21Saying “a quality education is not a luxury, it is an absolute necessity,” Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Karen Garza introduced her planned $2.7 billion 2017 budget as one that makes investments in a teachers and staff while also making no cuts to staffing or programs.

“This is a very important time for our school system,’ Garza said before a packed house of educators, FCPS staff, school board members and the media at West Potomac High School on Thursday. “There are decisions to be made in the coming months that will have a long-lasting effect on our school system.”

Highlights of Garza’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget include step- and 1-percent market-scale salary adjustments for FCPS staff, as well as a $40 million investment in salaries that is part of a multi-year effort to invest in FCPS’ workforce.

Fairfax County has fallen behind neighboring jurisdictions such as Loudoun and Arlington Counties’ salaries and raises in recent years, which has resulted in a number of teachers leaving for other districts, FCPS says.

“This sends a signal that they are valued and want them to stay,” said Garza. “Closing this pay gap is critical to our success.”

The budget also proposes $10 million for hiring of new positions at the elementary level. This will allow the system to lower elementary class sizes to below 30 students. Class sizes have risen three times in the past decade, said Garza.

The Superintendent also wants $2 million to properly maintain and replace FCPS’ aging fleet of buses.

Garza received a sustained round of applause from the crowd when she said her plan includes no further cuts. That means language immersion, sports, Advanced Academics and other activities are all safe — provided the schools get a requested 4.8-percent increase over 2016 in Fairfax County and state funding.

The county transfer to the schools for 2016 was more than $2 billion. That amount was a $66.7 million increase over 2015.

Garza had been warning since last spring that the school system could face a deficit of more than $50 million and that many programs — as well as teacher raises — would have to be considered on the chopping block. A county budget task force comprised of employees and community members was organized to examine some of the cost-cutting measures, and residents were encouraged to offer suggestions via an online budget tool.

FCPS made $98 million in cuts in Fiscal Year 2015 and $65 million in FY 2016.

“The work of our budget task force illustrates the challenges we have ahead should we have to cut further,” says Garza. “The community has indicated loud and clear it wants no more cuts. Any of these next round of cuts could change the face of our school system.”

Garza will present the proposed budget to the FCPS School Board Thursday evening. The school board will learn in coming weeks how much money will be coming from the state and county and will spend the next few months discussing the budget before finalizing it in May.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said last month that the commonwealth should make a $1 billion investment in public education. Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova said in December that 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.”

School Board Chair Pat Hynes (Hunter Mill) said Garza’s proposed budget is some needed good news. The school system is now spending $1,000 less in real dollars per student than it did eight years ago and nearly a half-billion in cuts have been made.

“We cannot sustain the greatness of our school system with sustained cuts,” said Hynes. “This is a budget that gives me hope. I hope everyone in the community will be behind us.”

Photo: FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza outlines 2017 budget at West Potomac High School/FCPS

  • SouthRestonResident

    Guess that means us legal U.S. citizen landowners will be getting a property tax increase. Oh well…it’s for the children. I’ll just bend over and bite the pillow

    • o.i.n.k.y.

      I suspect your implication is that us legal U.S. citizen landowners bear the burden of funding public education for children of non-citizens. If everyone sent their kids to private school and we eliminated the public school system, the problem would be solved.

      • Mike M

        No. It wouldn’t. They would draw even more freeloaders and political meddling would be even worse. They are an entrenched institution. You may recall they even have a federal Department.

    • Chuck Morningwood

      Every landowner, whether legal US citizen or not, will be getting a property tax bill. BTW, unless you own your property flat out, that property tax is paid out of escrow, which is integrated directly into your mortgage. So, assuming that even Illegalitos had to get a mortgage in order to afford their homes, there’s no way for them to dodge the paying the property tax bill because it’s an inherent part of their mortgage payment.

      • Virginia Harlow

        Wait, what? Is that your assumption??? Who is giving mortgages to illegals? I want to know.

  • Mike M

    The premise is that more money means “quality education.” But a simple research exercise shows the correlation is not necessarily there.

    • SouthRestonResident

      The problem is the union sucks up all the money and the raises go to people like Garza and the rest of the middle management, meanwhile the entry level teacher fresh out of college makes 45-50k a year and has to live with 1+ roommates and eat ramen for dinner

      • Mike M

        Oh, I think it’s safe to say they make other poor investments too. Comprende?

      • AnimalLover

        To be fair, VA does not have unions.

    • Liem Budzien

      Perhaps, but the problem with Fairfax County is that the amount of money per student is significantly less than surrounding counties. Teachers here get paid less, and therefore leave. 5 teachers at my local high school have left to teach in Loudoun and other places because the pay is higher. Teacher retention is an issue, one that cannot be solved without giving teachers a reason to stay.

      • Mike M

        Is it possible they spend too much on administration? You don’t seem to question how they allocate what they have.

  • Mike M

    “a quality education is not a luxury, it is an absolute necessity,”

    “quality housing is not a luxury, it is an absolute necessity,”

    “quality healthcare is not a luxury, it is an absolute necessity,”

    “A quality diet is not a luxury, it is an absolute necessity,”

    “A quality lifestyle is not a luxury, it is an absolute necessity,”

    Homina, homina, homina. Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching.

    A fast track to bankruptcy is not a luxury, for certain political party, it’s a necessity! For MY MONEY, I think quality management and living within your means, is not a luxury, it is a necessity clearly lacking in FCPS and too much of the County electorate.

    • Cash

      FCPS is doing more with less. The student population is growing rapidly and continuing to ask FCPS to educate thousands of more students each year with its current facilities and reduced budget is short sided and unsustainable. Frankly, it may require raising tax revenues but one party refuses to consider that approach.

      • Greg

        “Reduced budget”? Do you have some stats to support that claim?

        • Liem Budzien


          While the total budget is not drastically changing, small percentages still total in the tens to hundreds of millions. The most pressing problem is that the student population is growing at a much faster rate than funding.

          • Greg

            The FCPS school budget has increased every year for decades. The budget has grown from $400 million to $2.5 billion in fewer than 30 years.

      • Terry Maynard

        Just to be clear, FCPS budget data shows that FCPS spending has GROWN about 10% over the last 7 years–almost exactly in line with student population growth.

        There have been NO cuts in FCPS budgets or spending, just cuts in PROPOSED spending increases by the Board of Supervisors as FCPS rolls out its “wish list” budget proposal as it now has for FY2017. As of Nov. 2015, FCPS was forecasting/request a $121MM increase in its budget or 4.8%.

        That won’t happen

        A reasonable expectation is that the FCPS budget will grow again by about the same percentage as the increase in number of students expected. From its low point in 2011, per student spending has grown 1.7% per student per year–the exact increase in the inflation index (CPI). There could also be an addition to cover the pay raises. On top of this will be the projected % increase will be largely based on the number of projected new students, about 3,000/year in recent years. That’s an 1.6% increase.

        A reasonable guess is that the total FCPS percentage budget increase is likely to be about the sum of these two (3.3%) or about $84MM, a total of $2,630MM rather than the $2,673MM FCPS is requesting, a $37MM shortfall from the FCPS request. And that should be enough to keep the schools operating at least as efficiently and effectively as they have been (and they are good).

    • Liem Budzien

      The state government is at fault for underfunding the county. Richmond sucks up all the money and keeps it for themselves and rural counties. The problem is that the state is not putting the money in the right places.

      • Mike M

        And still, you vote for Ken Plum? And probably the governor too. I think FFX spends on stupid things like Japanese immersion, TJ High, the low end, the high end of the student body. It seems poorly managed.

  • AnimalLover

    That’s a little offensive. Like oh, you couldn’t make it in a “real” career. Try teaching.

    • SouthRestonResident

      Those that can, do. Those that can’t teach….So many professors in their ivory towers that had no experience outside of academia.

      • Kim Arnette

        Absolute BS cliché.

        Try this instead: those who once went to school think that that qualifies them to tell teachers how to do their jobs (though they haven’t spent one single day doing it and very, very likely won’t– ever).

        Those arm-chair critics are utterly wrong.
        P.S.: we’re not even talking about college professors here.

    • Mike M

      Psst! We live in a world where some might be offended by reality. Reality doesn’t give a dang.

  • Ming the Merciless

    It is not equally hard to be a teacher as it is to work in a tech field, and therefore we should not expect teachers and tech workers to be paid the same. Nor do we actually want the best and the brightest to be secondary school teachers. “Good enough” is good enough.

    • Kim Arnette

      Your understanding of “hard” is limited; I know many people who work in the tech field and do very well–including one who works for NASA–but they all tell me that they could never do my job. They are probably quite right. Not everyone has what it takes.
      You prove my point very well; if you haven’t taught, you don’t know much about it, including what it takes to get and keep the right people in your system–not only now, but in the long run.

      • Ming the Merciless

        I have taught. I have worked in tech. I know which is harder.

        Millions of people do your job. Don’t kid yourself about how tough it is or how much smarts it requires. Those people in tech who say they couldn’t do your job were just flattering you.

        • Chuck Morningwood

          If you think working in tech is hard, try being the lead teacher in a Spec Ed class. I guarantee you that you’ll change your point of view.

          • Ming the Merciless

            It is very hard to push a spaghetti noodle to the top of a mountain with your nose. And if you work hard at this task, and succeed in reaching the summit… so what? You have not created anything useful, made a profit, or improved the world. The extreme difficulty of this useless task is not a good argument for high government subsidies for spaghetti-pushers.

            There are three types of student: those who will succeed without much assistance, those who will succeed if they receive assistance, and those who will fail even if they receive assistance. The government should be focusing its money and funding on the second category, but instead it is the third category that absorbs an inordinate amount of money and teacher attention. Attempting to educate the ineducable is a vast waste of resources that could be better employed elsewhere.

            One might also note that spec ed teachers, unlike tech workers, get paid and get to remain employed whether they succeed or fail. Therefore, the fact that it is hard to be a spec ed teacher does not mean they deserve exceptional admiration. We should reserve the admiration and reward for those who succeed at useful tasks and risk severe consequences if they fail.

          • Chuck Morningwood

            I have taught and I have worked in tech also, Mung. And I have to beg to differ.

            Spec Ed teacher are held accountable for classroom results. If you new anything about how “success” is measured with Spec Needs students, the measurements and tracking are far more quantitative and concrete than even with the Gen Ed population. Every child who in Spec Ed has an IEP which spell out exactly what they are expected to learn in the next year and the education they recieve is tailored to that document. Their progress is tracked very closely. There is constant review of progress, and oversight by all manners of administration.

            And to assume that just because a child is in Spec Ed, that they are “uneducable” is ludicrous and shows an appalling lack of understanding of people with Special Needs. They may not be able to access the Gen Ed curriculum, or access it in a limited way or maybe with appropriate classroom supports, but they are educable and their lives have value and meaning. Maybe even more so than your miserable existence.

          • Ming the Merciless

            That “monitoring” in special education is largely about compliance with regulations, not about educational outcome.

            Naturally, you are able to tell me how many FCPS spec ed teachers were fired or demoted last year because they failed to educate their students?

          • Chuck Morningwood

            If that is what you believe, then you need to take a look at an Individual Education Plan. Each and every child in a Special Education program has one. It spells out in great detail exactly what the school system is going to teach to that child in that academic year. It is renegotiated with a “team” which includes the parents and whatever representatives they choose to include every year.

            And, no, I wouldn’t be able to tell you about personnel actions within FCPS because FCPS, like most employers, don’t share the details of such things to the public. I can tell you, though, that just based on my limited interaction with specific schools’ Spec Ed departments, that I know of at least one teacher that left just before she got left, and another that was transferred to a more “compatible” classroom assignment.

            BTW, if you’re only measure of an organizations effectiveness at maintaining a competent workforce is the number of firings and demotions, I wonder about the disconnect between your percieved morale level and their actual morale level.

          • Ming the Merciless

            In the private sector, organizations that are failing either fire people or go out of business. The government can’t go out of business, unfortunately, so the only thing you can do when government employees fail is fire them. But oh wait, teachers have “tenure” for some absurd reason, so it is effectively impossible – because it is arduous, expensive, and time-consuming – to fire even the most abjectly incompetent teacher. Tell me again how we hold them accountable? What exactly happens to the teacher if the student does not meet the goals of his “individual education plan”? Oh, the failed teacher might, at worst, get sent to inflict her incompetence on students in another classroom elsewhere. In short, there is no accountability. Thanks for making my point for me!

          • Chuck Morningwood

            So, I’m betting that just about every teacher has failed one student or another. Are we to fire every teacher simply because they had a student or students whom they couldn’t reach?

            Get a grip, Mung. Just because you can simply let go a private sector employee without a reason doesn’t make it the right thing to do, or even good policy.

            BTW, have you ever noticed how worker productivity goes down when the group knows that somebody or somebodies are about to get voted off the island?

          • Ming the Merciless

            I’m betting that just about every teacher has failed one student or
            another. Are we to fire every teacher simply because they had a student or students whom they couldn’t reach?

            Since I did not argue that, I have no obligation to answer you. Feel free to flail away at your own straw man as much as you like.

            Just because you can simply let go a private sector employee without a reason doesn’t make it the right thing to do, or even good policy.

            As a practical matter, you can’t fire a teacher for any reason — which is not good policy.

            And this is also irrelevant to the main point that spec ed teachers are a waste of resources.

            have you ever noticed how worker productivity goes down when the group knows that somebody or somebodies are about to get voted off the island?

            Have you ever noticed that workers who can’t get fired are not productive at all, because they don’t have to be?

          • Kim Arnette

            I feel sorry for your hypothetical students.

            You insult my family, friends, and acquaintances by
            saying they’re just placating me when they tell me that they couldn’t do my job. You don’t know me, nor do you know them. They’re knowledgeable, intelligent people with talents of their own who realize that I don’t need or want either their pity or their adulation; unlike you, they’re honest, mature
            people who are in touch with reality, know something about teaching, and are bold enough to use their real names when they speak out.

            Over the course of 25 years, I’ve taught students whose families come from a huge diversity of backgrounds, economic levels, and family structures. Some of them have been typical students, some advance/gifted and talented,
            and many of them have learning delays/disabilities, autism, Down syndrome, Asperger’s syndrome, Fragile X, emotional disturbances, and more. It’s sad that you can’t see the economic advantages of educating everyone, nor the inherent value of others; instead you look at the world as a hierarchy to be organized into castes, assigning value to people with your price gun.

            Am I the best at what I do? No, but I am an intelligent,
            purposeful, and talented person, and on behalf of many other teachers in this nation, I will say that I’m fed up with being trashed by some in this society. I appreciate constructive advice from credible sources, but I don’t
            accept insults from ignoramuses.

            Professor Ming, whether you care or not, you definitely come
            across as the sort of rigid-minded a$$ who sees life as absolutely dichotomous, unable to concede any validity to an idea that’s not his/her own, and unable to meet any criticism without a snide comeback—regardless of how inaccurate that counterpoint may be. You may sound clever to some—especially you— but you’ve made it clear that you have far less knowledge, sense and wisdom than you claim. You sound pitifully narcissistic. If that’s not the case, I won’t apologize at all. You should brush up on your communication skills and realize that you’re not earning much respect with your words. I suggest you do it elsewhere, though;
            your shtick is really old.

            I have many more worthwhile and enjoyable things to do; I’m
            done with your little pi$$ing contest here.

          • Ming the Merciless

            I call them as I see them. Mercilessly.

            Anyone “in touch with reality” – or even the numbers provided by FCPS – can see that spec ed is an overfunded waste of resources. Each spec ed student costs twice as much as each gen ed student. That is insane. The spec ed student to teacher ratio is half what the gen ed ratio is. That is insane.

            You claim there are “economic advantages” to educating spec ed students, but economics is precisely where your argument falls flat on its face. The costs of spec ed are high, and the benefits few. Much more of the cost of educating spec ed students should be borne by their families, not by the other taxpayers, since the families (and supposedly, the students) are the ones who realize the supposed “economic benefits”, not the taxpayers.

            Economics requires making choices, because resources are not infinite. In education, as in so many other things, we are making poor choices.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    There are marginally qualified people in every field in which I’ve had contact. Teaching is no different. However, to claim (or imply) that most or all teachers are rejects from other programs is ludicrous.

    And just because you might have washed out of Med School does not necessarily imply that you are somehow underqualified or incompetent as a teacher.

  • Virginia Harlow

    Gee, this must be the way they put bond issues on for voters to approve that include wording like “to take care of funds already spent”…or whatever crap that was.

  • glb

    I am so confused! All I’ve read for the last 6-9 months is how fcps has to CUT millions from the budget. They convened a huge task force that spent months and months putting together a big proposal. I read the budget task force recommendations plans published in November. It’s 40 pages long and has two proposals – one to cut $50 million and one to cut $75 million. This was not a small effort. There are online tools that were created for stakeholders in the public (parents, educators, etc) to submit which specific cuts from the recommendations they would put in place. Meetings to inform the public of all the pain to come. A twitter hashtag created to “save fcps”. Basically a huge public awareness campaign and money spent to let us all know things are dire and pain is coming. The the superintendent released a budget with increases an no cuts. I’m SO lost. Are cuts now off the table?? The budget is being increased?? I am totally mystified. I haven’t seen an single news article addressing or explaining this. I am just a lay person, but If someone can please fill me in on what I’m missing I’d really appreciate it.

    • Greg

      Little more than classic “Chicken Little.” The sky is not falling and the budget will, as it nearly always has, be increased to fuel yet more added fat in the bloated FCPS budget.


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