This update highlights a point of disconnect in the local conversation about school funding.
On February 26, Superintendent Garza presented her budget in detail at a joint meeting of the School Board and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. The room was filled, and included many principals and community members (including an overflow room).
A critical point of debate that we have heard for months, if not years, is this: FCPS says that the budget has been cut – that is, the funding that FCPS receives from the County has not been sufficiently covering core cost drivers that FCPS cannot control (salary increases, retirement & health benefits, student enrollment), and so FCPS must “cut” its budget for other things in order to put forth a budget that is required by law to be within the amount of the money provided by the County. These “cuts” include investments that sufficiently lower class sizes; giving staff more significant raises; replacing and providing computers; updating facilities and buses; and more. (See slides 5 and 25 in the FCPS budget presentation here.) At the same time, the County Board of Supervisors says that it has, each year for several years, increased the dollar amount of money that it appropriates to FCPS. And this is true: in the past 5 years, growth has been $308.6 million for schools. (See slide 29 in this County budget presentation here.)
What both FCPS and the Board of Supervisors is saying is true.
But here is the equalizing data: per-pupil spending in FCPS is down about $1,100 since 2009 when adjusted for inflation. What that means, is that in real dollars, we spend less on each student now than we did in 2009 – and that is not because of realized efficiencies, it is because we have offered our students fewer resources. In FY2009 we spent $13,340. In FY 2016 we spent $12,196. Here is how other districts compare: Arlington county $18,616; Falls Church city $18,032; Alexandria city $16,561; Montgomery county $15,341.
Please raise your voice to the School Board and County Board of Supervisors and ask them to put aside the rhetoric and focus on the task at hand: fully funding our children’s education.