FCPS budget should be managed

Kimberly Williams, News Editor

The Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) budget for 2015 is anything but ideal.

According to the FCPS website, “FCPS faces a shortfall of $140.7 million for FY 2015 prior to any county transfer increase or employee salary increase.”

Because FCPS does not have the ability to tax for funding, it relies on the state and the Board of Supervisors for its money. This is inconvenient as there never seems to be enough money granted toward the county.

The biggest issue concerning the 2015 budget is that it is not being managed properly. While no definite decisions have been made, anything is a candidate for being cut.

“At this point, all options are on the table, including re-instituting athletic and testing fees, cutting librarians and technology specialists, increasing class size and reducing administrative programs,” said Ryan McElveen, FCPS School Board Member. “None of these are good choices.”

According to the FCPS “A Citizen’s  Guide to Understanding the Budget,” FCPS is the largest school district in Virginia, yet the teachers make significantly less than many other counties. One thing FCPS prides itself on is the highly qualified and dedicated teaching staff. Without pay raises, which teachers have not had in the past five years according to School Board Member Ted Velkoff, there is not as much competition for attracting the best teachers possible. If teachers are not rewarded for the work they do, the county risks losing some of its best staff.

“The Superintendent has pledged to include a salary increase in her budget this year, and it is possible we can cut other items to pay for it, but such increases are not sustainable unless we can get increased state or local funding,” McElveen said.

“FCPS enrollment has increased by 15,000 students over the past 5 years; we expect an additional 2800 students next year, which will cost FCPS $25 million for their education,” Velkoff said.

Many classes are already at an all-time high, and too high a ratio of students to teachers decreases the effectiveness of student-teacher relationships. Also, implementing testing fees contradicts part of the purpose of “public” school. Parents pay taxes so that their children’s education will be paid for. However, because Fairfax County is wealthy and a majority of students can afford to pay testing fees, this is not the worst-case scenario should the School Board decide to implement this.

While none of the options are ideal, the School Board should start requiring more fees from athletics. While sports and teams are an important part of school, the academics should always come first. Instituting athletic fees for all sports would contribute greatly to the budget, as well as reserve more money for teachers and students in the classrooms.