Fairfax County School Budget Reflects Grand Goal

February 13, 2015 Updated: February 13, 2015

The Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) released the county’s proposed FY 2016 school budget for the school year, which begins on July 1, 2015, on January 8. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, having announced several budget process time lines, expects the adoption of the school budget in May.

The public was forewarned in Nov. 2014 that the county is facing budget shortfalls because of a slow recovery of the residential and commercial real estate market. Not only that, but also federal and state budget cuts have taken a bite out of the county’s budget needs.

The FCPS stated in the beginning of the 272 page Budget proposal that this budget is “a record of past decisions and a spending plan for the future.”

Budget reductions were close to $435 million since fiscal year 2009. Yet, class sizes increased 3 times, were redesigned and programs eliminated. Teaching positions were cut to 2,175, of which almost one third were included in the FY 2015 budget.

The cost per student has increased by a total of $132 per student, from $13,340 in 2009 to $13,472 in 2014. Among 10 area schools, Fairfax County is in the 6th position, with the highest amount at $19,040 in Arlington and the lowest amount in Prince William County at $10,365.

However, the FCPS expenditure per student, after adjusting for inflation, is still below those of the 2009 school year.

Out of 23,799 positions, only 6.7 percent are not involved in the education of Fairfax County children and considered solely management positions.

In FY 2016, FCPS continues to offer English for students that speak a foreign language, an increase of 22 percent since 2011, according to an FCPS presentation.

The proposed budget for FY 2016 is $2.6 billion, a 2.6 percent increase over the prior FY, but it calls for fine line in balancing the students’ needs to the available funds.

“We need a long-term strategy for funding our schools that is predictable and sustainable. Balancing each year’s budget on continued reductions is not sustainable and it will erode the quality of our school system,” said Karen K. Garza, Superintendent of FCPS.

Garza said that the school authorities involved in the budget process has stayed as close as possible to the numbers provided by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. However, it would lead to a declining quality of the county’s education in the long run.

Vision for the Future of the FCPS School System

The goal of FCPS is to prepare all students for the time when they leave high school and either enter employment or move on to higher education.

All high school graduates will become “productive and responsible members of society, capable of competing in the global economy and motivated to pursue learning throughout their lifetimes,” according to the FCPS proposal.

FCPS had set itself three student achievement goals, of which the first one is the pursuit of high academic achievements. The second goal calls for providing the student with everything needed to succeed in society. The third goals intends that the student turns into a responsible and valued member of society, not just in this county, but worldwide.

Publications by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors tell the public that its school system is actively shaping the future leaders of Fairfax County.

According to the Foundation of Fairfax County Public Schools, a non-for-profit organization, Fairfax County is “one of the nation’s most successful and vibrant jurisdictions.” The main reason for this statement is the high level of educational achievement by the county’s students and the excellence the schools are striving for.