Fairfax County Public School Superintendent Karen Garza issued a statement April 28 blasting the Board of Supervisors for failing to fully fund the school system.
The BoS voted to formally approve a budget for fiscal year 2016 April 28, which had been agreed to last week, that leaves FCPS with a $14 million shortfall next year.
“This is extremely disheartening - we entered this budget year making a good faith effort to work collaboratively with the Board of Supervisors,” Garza states. “We worked for nearly a year with the county executive and the Board of Supervisors to develop a reasonable budget that met only the very minimal needs of FCPS, and in the end they did not deliver.”
Mason Supervisor Penny Gross issued the following statement in response to Garza: “Again this year, schools and education were a top priority for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, ultimately accounting for 52.7 percent of the FY 2016 budget. I am proud that during this year’s budget process, the board was able to increase funding for our schools by $66.7 million over last year, for a total transfer of $2.01 billion. This increase and further investment in schools was done while maintaining our current tax rate and providing for the many public safety and community resources relied on by Mason District and Fairfax County residents.”
Jessica Swanson, who is running against Gross in the Democratic primary, had issued a statement after the BoS vote on the budget April 22 stating, “Local families and educators have been advocating for years for their local officials to do something about increasingly overcrowded classrooms, delays of needed school renovations, an explosion of language instruction needs, and non-competitive teacher salaries, but those concerns have fallen on deaf ears.”
Supervisor Gross claims to support our schools, but she just voted for a budget that shorts them in really damaging ways,” Swanson said. “Mason District deserves a supervisor who will make the tough choices necessary to ensure that Fairfax County Public Schools continue to grow and thrive.” She also criticized the board for giving supervisors a $20,000 pay raise.
Garza blames FCPS' deteriorating financial situation on chronic underfunding and a decade of significant enrollment growth and increasing student needs. Without adequate funding, she said, “we will not be able to sustain the current quality nor the full range of academic programming we currently offer our students.”
“With the scale of the FY 2017 shortfall, we will have to take a serious look at the programs that we must cut starting in the 2016-17 school year,” Garza states. “These cuts will likely affect all current academic programming, including limiting elective choices, reducing career and technical programs, impacting advanced offerings, and again raising class sizes at all levels.”
FCPS has cut 2,175 staff positions and nearly half a billion dollars since 2008. “We have fallen so far behind in teacher salaries that we are no longer competitive and are losing talented staff to neighboring school districts,” Garza continues.
“Losing our most experienced teachers will have a significant effect on student performance and will ultimately affect the reputation of FCPS,” she says. “Fairfax County public schools are frequently cited as one of the main reasons that businesses choose to relocate to the county, and Fairfax has some of the highest property values in the country, but without excellent schools as a foundation – corporate investment in Fairfax and property values will decline.”