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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

FX CO school board supports employee raises, full-day kindergarten

The  advertised budget for fiscal year 2012 for Fairfax County Public Schools, approved by the school board Feb. 3, includes several measures supported by Mason District school board member Sandy Evans.

The $2.2 billion budget includes 2 percent cost-of-living increases and step increases for eligible employees. “The Board has set teacher pay raises as a top priority this year, and I am committed to keeping our promise on this,” Evans says. Employees have not had any raises since 2009.

Initially, Superintendent Jack Dale wanted to retain the $75 fees for Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams. But when Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued an opinion that the fees are illegal, Dale told the board he would recommend eliminating the fees and refund payments that have already been collected this year.

As a result, Evans withdrew the budget amendments she had submitted to limit the fees and instead offered an amendment directing the superintendent to bring the school board his plan for dealing with the fees at the board’s March 14 work session. That amendment passed unanimously, also Evans says any plan would still need to be approved by the board.

“I’ve been opposed to these $75 per-test fees because of concerns that they are a serious barrier for some of our students to take our most challenging high school courses, Evans says. She has heard complaints from parents who were charged $450 for IB test fees in December; and that’s on top of new sports fees that can total $300 per year per student.

The board approved an amendment to provide full-day kindergarten in all FCPS elementary schools over the next three years. It would cost an estimated $8.1 million to establish full-day kindergarten in the 37 schools that don’t have it. While all of Mason District’s schools already have full-day kindergarten, Evans supported the amendment as a matter of fairness.

Evans also supported a measure—which passed unanimously—to reject elimination of the elementary school foreign language program. Several Mason District schools offer this program, including Sleepy Hollow (Arabic), Beech Tree (Arabic), and Mantua (Italian).

Several amendments Evans supported failed to pass, including measures to reinstate summer school, provide more early intervention for at-risk elementary students, and provide more supervision to suspended students.

The advertised budget requests a $48.8 million increase in the amount of funds transferred to FCPS from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. That increase reflects enrollment growth of nearly 7,000 students in the past three years.

A public forum on the budget will be held Saturday, Feb. 26, 9 a.m. to noon, at Falls Church High School.

The FCPS budget is far from a done deal. The board of supervisors will hold public hearings on the advertised budget March 29-31. Members of the public interested in speaking can sign up online. In late April, the board will determine how much it will give to FCPS. The school board will then hold hearings and will pass a final budget in May.

“Overall, while this isn’t perfect and we still have difficult decisions to make, I feel this is a reasonable budget—one that takes care of our school system’s priorities.” Evans says. “While we are asking for an increase from the Board of Supervisors, we also are dealing with a significant increase in students, including a higher percentage with special needs. The school system has an obligation to request what we believe we need to serve our students, and that’s what this does.”

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