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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

FCPS Budget Task Force proposes deep funding cuts, student fees

Budget cuts could have a huge impact on Braddock Elementary School and other schools in the Annandale/Mason area.
The Fairfax County Public Schools’ FY 2017 Budget Task Force is recommending increased student fees, larger class sizes, and a series of other cost cutting-measures to close a projected budget deficit that could be as high as $75 million.

One recommendation that would have a big impact on schools in the Mason District area – cutting funding for needs-based staffing in elementary schools with high proportions of poor students – would save the most money, $5.2 million.

The task force, formed by FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza, issued its final report Nov. 9.  The group includes representatives appointed by school board members, employee organizations, business and community groups, principals, and FCPS administrators.

“These are recommendations,” Garza said. “No decisions have been made. . . . . 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,” she noted, “reductions will be unavoidable unless we receive sufficient revenue to meet our expenditure requirements.”

The task force prioritized its recommendations by indicating the percentage of agreement among individual members and also took into account comments submitted by residents on an online budget tool and at community outreach meetings.

In developing their recommendations, the task force considered two scenarios – a $50 million deficit and a $75 million deficit.

The following recommendations under the $50 million deficit scenario are in order with those receiving the most support listed first:
  • Increase the community facility use fee by 40 percent.
  • Increase the student parking fee from $200 to $300. 
  • Establish a pupil placement fee of $300.
  • Charge an athletic fee of $200 per sport per student.
  • Require students to pay the fees for Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate (IB) tests.
  • Eliminate the language immersion program.
  • Eliminate remedial summer school, excluding special education and Bridges to Kindergarten.
  • Students would pay the fees for the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT).
  • Class sizes in the elementary school Advanced Academic Programs (AAP) would be increased by one student.
  • High school students enrolled in online and academy classes would be excluded from the calculation of base school teacher allocations.
  • The elementary school staffing formula would raise the minimum class size from 17 to 19 students per teacher.
  • The need-based staffing formula for elementary schools would be revised, so the additional resources allocated to schools based on the number and percentage of students eligible for free and reduced-price meals would be cut by 20 percent.
  • Eliminate after-school buses at high schools.
  • Reduce the pay for substitute teachers.
  • Reduce needs-based staffing for high schools and middle schools by 20 percent.
  • Eliminate transportation for students enrolled in AAPs at elementary schools.
  • Eliminate high school freshman athletic teams.
  • Increase class sizes in middle school AAPs by one student.
  • Reduce Red Apple 21 television programming.
  • Eliminate fourth-grade band and orchestra.
  • Eliminate non-mandated testing.
  • Eliminate IB middle school programs.
  • Increase elementary school class sizes by 0.25 students per teacher.
  • Eliminate the guarantee of two teachers per grade at small elementary schools.
  • Reduce staffing for the high school IB program.
  • Increase high school and middle school class sizes by 0.25 students per teacher.
  • Provide Level IV AAPs at all elementary schools and eliminate transportation to AAP centers.
Those recommendations are also included in the $75 million deficit scenario but the priority order differs and there are additional cuts, including larger class sizes and reductions in online classes, building cleaning, professional development, teacher pay, employee work days, instructional coaches, preschool programs, after-school programs, and other areas.
Students eligible for free and reduced-price meals would be exempt from the fees or would pay a reduced fee.            

The budget process will continue over the next few months. Garza will submit a proposed 2017 budget in January. The school board will announce an advertised budget in February and will approve a final budget at its May 26 meeting.


  1. Well that sucks.

    don't mind the fees, but am seriously worried about the impact of cuts to high need areas. our district needs those programs so much - for both the most needy kids as well as to ensure the pace of instruction is maintained.

    I'm also wondering if what Pat Herrity has said is true - that certain areas of the budget were declared off limits. That is no good IMO. You need to look at everything when in the brainstorming phase, especially parts that are some of the biggest drivers in increased cost.

  2. "Eliminate the language immersion program." Finally. This useless indulgence has been the most conspicuous example of waste in the school budget. The resources tied up in this program would clearly be better employed in educating the general school population.

  3. Another year, another round of playing games. As usual, Karen Garza is playing the nuclear option. Goring everyone's ox and hoping the resulting hysteria gets her what she really wants. But, don't expect the school board to make any hard decisions. They're going to spend their time arguing about social issues. That leaves the BOS to resolve this situation. The local economy is still lousy and taxes haven't been equalized in a couple of years. As a result, most residents have seen their property tax bills steadily creeping upwards. So, unless the BOS decides to really ratchet up taxes, Garza may, for once, find herself caught in her own nuclear fallout. Personally, I'm budgeting for annual tax increases of $300- $500 per year for the indefinite future. If that's not enough ,then it's time to leave before the deteriorating tax situation starts to really erode the equity in my residence.

  4. I did not see the representatives of the citizens who
    do not have children in the schools, but who pay in and do not even get heard.
    You know, those people are also interested in the priorities of what we pay for.
    Also and again and again, what about that elusive audit of the schools.
    Also, I did not see precious untouchable TJ being considered for continues to press on becoming more and more elite with few Spanish background and African American admitted. Dramatic change from where it started when there was a good balanced mix of economic and cultural
    represenetatives.. Something very wrong with TJ.
    Perhaps the school board should have followed the original pattern for TJ and sought more private support instead of $90 MILLION going into a school with 400 students or so in each class.
    My observation is that it is more and more becoming a private school which seeks nothing from and gives not much to the ordinary citizens of Fairfax County. EX: do they ever have an open house for the community at large? Do they ever contribute to the larger community? $90 Million for 1200 1600 students?
    May I respectfully suggest that we reconsider the election of school board members and put it back to the appointment of members by the BOS, It was much more balanced and creative then. Each district had more power...

    1. I was of the impression that the BOS was not initially unhappy about no longer having to directly supervise the public schools. However, what they got was a school board packed with unrealistic social activists who don't have the self-discipline to establish sensible priorities for funding the schools. Instead, they've annually presented bloated budgets to the BOS knowing full well that their proposals would have to be pared down. Notwithstanding that fact, they've then embarked on a seemingly endless diatribe about how the BOS has let down the youth of the county. The voters had a chance to get rid of these hypocrites last week and chose instead to keep most of them. So, now we're destined to remain stuck in the same endless loop of incompetence for the foreseeable future.

  5. while I agree that the school board vs bos dynamic is unhelpful, the answer is most certainly NOT to have school board representatives appointed by the BOS. that is LESS voter accountability than we have now! if it were possible to give the school board independent budget control, that would be optimal, however that just isnt gonna happen and I cannot in a million years support a BOS-appointed school board rep.

    1. " if it were possible to give the school board independent budget control, ..." That's what's referred to as an independent school district. ISD's are common in places like Texas where Karen Garza last worked. They also have independent taxing authority. Our FCSB members recently passed a resolution requesting their own tax authority. That was after the BOS rightfully reduced one of their bloated budget proposals. School boards in places like Texas tend to be relatively conservative about asking for millage increases. However, I'd expect our irresponsible bunch of spendthrifts to ratchet taxes through the ceiling as they they seek to fund every neighborhood interest group's gratuitous pet project. That is, of course, with the exception of Mason which has a diverse school population that doesn't fit into those insiders' vision of turning the FCPS into one large prep school for the upper middle class. So, under the present circumstances, the best thing the BOS can do for taxpayers is to rein in the school board's exorbitant spending proposals.

  6. Thank you! You are absolutely right. The BoS, for what it's worth, is the only body standing between ALL the taxpayers (and not just families with children in FCPS) and the school board's money grab.

  7. The state needs to suck it up and raise capital gains taxes.

  8. I have been here long enough to remember when the Northern Virginia delegation went to Richmond with common goals to obtain what we was really powerful, especially when they combined with Hampton Roads/Norfolk and some Richmond.
    No more..We are gerrymandered and paralyzed.
    Party goals are the thing and our delegates don't even know how to be an effective opposition.
    We could get that money if the NoVa delegation stuck together with common goals and a coalition.
    Not a chance.. Party first.

  9. Here are some of my issues with these ideas. If you look at Annandale HS the students park on a public street not on school grounds and they will be charged more to park on a public street???

    If students have to pay for Advance Academics and IB test you will have less students taking advantage of these amazing programs.

    Reduce the pay for substitute teachers. They do not get paid much as it is. There will be less of a chance of getting good substitute teachers.

    Provide Level IV AAPs at all elementary schools and eliminate transportation to AAP centers. There is not usually enough students at each school to make a center just a local center which means that the Advance Academics class would be students who may not be able to handle the faster pace studies so they will have to dumb down the work. I am fine with elimating the transportation.

    If they are elimating the transportation for Advance Academics what about Thomas Jefferson? I do not see about a fee for applying to TJ.

    Charge an athletic fee of $200 per sport per student. If this happens you will have more students not playing sports which means a higher chance they will get themselves in trouble after school.

    I do not see anything about elimating FECEP.

    I see other places that can be cut as well. Start at TJ and charge students who go there who are not a US Citizen. Why are we paying for students to go to TJ and take their education back to their home country?

    1. Some good ideas 7:37.
      By the way, what is a student placement fee?
      I particularly like the idea of having advanced placement at each elementary school...Much more fairl...
      This suggestion opportunity needs to go public!
      In some ways, this committee is out of touch.

    2. I disagree that it would be fair. My child is in Advance Academics beginning this year and prior to that he was bored in school and was beyond what other students were doing. My child's education had to be slowed down to allow other students to catch up. This is the first year my child is having a challenge so if you combine General Education Students with Advance Academics classes you will once again have students who are bored and will not enjoy school.

      Student Placement fee I am assuming would be if you want to take HVAC training as a High School Student you would need to go to Edison High School and you would be charged a fee. If you are a teacher and want your child at the same school as you then you would have to pay a placement fee. If FCPS are providing transportation for that child I can see why you would charge a fee but as a student at FCPS going to another school should not charge a fee.

      I see almost everyday around 40+ buses leaving TJ to go around the entire county. I do no see anything about charging those a fee. I think if you are getting transportation to a school that is not your base school you should pay a transportation fee. The fee should be based on miles to transport student from school to home.

      The transportation fee will provide a lot of money for the county and basing it on miles makes the fee fair for all.