While the final proposed budget won’t be presented to the school board until January, the Washington Post is reporting that the projected $176 million budget shortfall could result in the “most dramatic reduction in services in more than 20 years.” What ads to the situation is that there have already been some budget cuts that were made this year and the student population is continuing to grow. Of course we’re lucky to have one of the best school systems in the country (if not THE best) here in Fairfax, but the budget cuts still raise some concerns as there are some significant changes that might need to be made.
The list includes increasing class size by one student for a savings of $19 million, removing foreign language instruction from elementary schools to save $2 million, and rolling back full-day kindergarten from 101 schools to 34 schools in disadvantaged communities, yielding $13 million in savings.Now there are several things that I believe are worth taking away from this news. First is that these recommendations aren't set in stone and members of the community will have the opportunity to learn more about the situation and potentially even give their two cents at upcoming community meetings. As of right now, there are meetings scheduled for October 29 and November 14. As part of the work I was doing with working class families at the time, I worked with a large number of community members who were interested in the school system’s budget while the previous rounds of cuts were being made. I bring this up only to say that I know the members of the School Board truly do value what the community's input so I highly recommend attending these meetings if you have the time.
The board will also consider eliminating summer school to save $8 million and undoing a special staffing formula that provides extra teachers for high-need schools, which would save $20 million. Also on the table are reductions in school technology specialists, guidance counselors and social workers and higher activity fees and test fees for Advanced Placement courses.
It’s also worth noting that residents of Providence District will be electing a new School Board member when they head to the polls on November 3. Considering the budget crisis that the school system is currently facing, the results of this election are extremely important. I have already expressed my support for John Jennison in this race and his experience as a graduate of FCPS, a parent with children in the system, and a long time community advocate will greatly benefit him if he were to become the newest member of the School Board.
Although there are a few months before the final budget will be proposed, January will be upon us quicker than you think. I therefore want to hear from folks about the school system’s budget. There are endless amount of questions, but here are just a few that come to mind. What programs, if any, should be cut? Would you consider paying more taxes if it meant more funding for our schools? Will the handling of this situation impact how you vote in future races? How will the budget shortfall impact the students? Will the freeze on teacher salaries impact the quality of the teachers FCPS attract? I’ll be following the situation in the coming months so please send me your thoughts on the topic.