Red Apple Mom

March 16, 2011

Funding Signposts on Teacher Raises & FDK

Good news and bad news for FDK advocates – the Board of Supervisors (BOS) all want FDK, but it seems they don’t want to pay for it.  Based on BOS Chairman Sharon Bulova’s comments at Tuesday’s joint budget meeting with the FCPS School Board, it doesn’t appear that funding from the county for teacher raises will happen either.

Full-Day Kindergarten

There was no mention of Supervisor Gerry Hyland’s proposed amendment to fund Full Day Kindergarten from the Board of Supervisors purported $30 million in surplus funds resulting from unexpected increases in corporate taxes.

Hyland may not have mentioned it because we learned at this meeting that the county does not really have a surplus.  They are, according to the county executive, $26 million in the hole.  Full Day Kindergarten costs $7.3 million.

Supervisors questioned FCPS officials about how big a priority FDK was for the school system.  Dr. Dale told Supervisors he was looking at a three-year implementation for FDK at a cost of $2+ million per year.  That didn’t sit well with Supervisors John Foust or Cathy Hudgins.

Joint Meeting - Board of Supervisors, Superintendent Dale & FCPS School Board

“It is a basic service.  Folks have been expecting it for long time.  It is a matter of equity.  You shouldn’t be looking at three years (to implement FDK),” said Foust.  He added, “In a $2.2 billion budget you shouldn’t be trying to find 2 million – you have to find it all.  Something else might have to give.”

Cathy Hudgins said of FDK, “It’s the foundation of the system and not ‘when we get to it.’”

FCPS repeatedly states that the economic downturn is to blame for not completing the FDK roll-out that began in earnest in 2006.  However, in spite of the recession’s onset, the School Board did, in fact, vote to expand the FLES program (foreign language in the elementary schools).

I’m a dual language speaker and support foreign language instruction.   But if FDK has always been FCPS’ priority, why were they expanding programs that serve only 10% of the student population rather than implement FDK in more schools?  I’m posing the question because several members of the public posed that exact question to FCPS when they voted to expand FLES a few years ago.  Everyone seems to be giving FCPS a pass that the recession is solely to blame for not fully implementing FDK.  It’s not and that is a fact.  They had options.

FDK advocates (and I’m one of them) will have to really turn up the heat on FCPS to make FDK happen this year.  Even then, it may still prove to be an internal budget battle on FCPS’s turf.  At-Large School Board member Tina Hone told Supervisors, “I will be asking to restore summer school before funding the full roll-out of FDK.”

Employee Compensation:

Board of Supervisor Chairman Sharon Bulova didn’t dance around on FCPS’ request for an additional $48 million for employee compensation increases, stating, “There is a major disconnect between our two budgets.”

Bulova has equity concerns for county employees like police, firemen and librarians..  She said, “Is it right for an employee to get an increase on one side of the house when we can’t on the other side of the house?  We aren’t out of the woods yet (on the recession).”

How is the superintendent going to handle this one?    Before parents resurrected the FDK issue, the number one priority for the School Board was staff and teacher raises.  I know for a fact that teacher morale is already low.  I speak to a lot of teachers in my advocacy work and I know their increased workloads are really tough.  The student body brings so many challenges from special ed to non-english speaking and poor students.  In addition, teachers today are faced with an endless flow of assessment and testing requirements.  Our school system is great because of our quality teacher workforce. We have a great curriculum too but without great teachers, the curriculum alone can’t maintain FCPS’ fine reputation.

So here comes the reality check.  The supervisors acknowledged their appreciation of all school employees, but I didn’t hear anything in this meeting to indicate the school system should expect more.  FCPS already receives 53 cents of every county tax dollar as part of the $2.2 Billion FCPS budget.

That means it will be up to taxpayers, parents and teachers to hold FCPS’ feet to the fire in upholding the School Board’s promises on FDK and teacher compensation.

Teachers Rally for Compensation Issues on Tuesday

As Supervisor Foust told Dr. Dale, “Something else may have to give.”  What “gives” still remains to be seen, however, since Dr. Dale has provided no indication to date of how he would pay for FDK and/or employee raises.

Looks for things to heat up soon.  Lots of promises have been made.  It’s also an election year and a number of School Board members have serious campaign challengers.

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4 Comments

  1. There is NO way that they can finance all day kindergarten in 37 schools for $8 million. The math simply does not work. Thirty-seven schools cannot double kindergarten classroom space, hire twice the number of teachers and aides, for $8 million. I don’t know why they are pretending the number is this low.

    Employee raises will happen. They’re running for re-election.

    Comment by Lovettsville Lady — March 17, 2011 @ 12:25 am

    • FCPS officials told the Board of Supervisors that the challenge is financial – not school space or the cost of teachers. Parents should be aware that many schools will likely see trailers on their campuses for older kids in order to free up classroom space for additional full-day Kindergarteners. Dr. Dale also told the BOS that FCPS is seeing some transportation savings with the elimination of half-day K and additional “savings” from closing Clifton. I do wonder, however, how many “more” ways that Clifton money will be spent. In nearly every meeting I cover, I hear some FCPS official claim the Clifton savings for their pet project. I do hope teachers see some kind of compensation increase. Months ago, School Board Member Patty Reed proposed a one-time bonus. School Board Member Stu Gibson led the debate to kill that idea saying you can’t compensate teachers without compensating other FCPS staff. Keep in mind the Gatehouse staff are generally making WAY more than teachers make in terms of salary. I know many parents who are fine with the idea of providing bonuses to only those employees who directly interact with children and learning. Finally, here’s a factor to consider on employee raises and it being an election year – about half of the School Board is not running for re-election. The only members, so far, who have indicated they will campaign again are: Jane Strauss, Kathy Smith, Ilryong Moon, Sandy Evans, Dan Storck and Patty Reed. (NOTE: Strauss and Moon are both going on their nearly 2nd DECADE of service – It’s time for them to go!!!! Our community needs new blood and fresh leadership!) It’s no accident that the FDK issue came up in an election year. If this was such a priority for this School Board, why did parents have to resurrect the issue?! Until parents raised a stink, this issue wasn’t on the Board’s radar screen for this year. FDK is the issue incumbents see as getting them precious votes from parents – maybe more so than giving teachers raises.

      Comment by Red Apple Mom — March 17, 2011 @ 8:43 am

  2. This is a good post and hits the target with the puzzling priorities of the School Board. Each program should be evaluated for savings and value.

    The FLES program is a great example. I am sure it is a good program–but is FCPS getting the value it needs from the money spent? NO!
    I speak from experience as a teacher in the DOD school system. In military schools in Japan and Germany, my first graders received “Host Nation” instruction twice a week. It was appropriate for the students to receive this instruction when living in a foreign country. But, even though these children were living in the country, they DID NOT LEARN TO SPEAK the language unless they were living “on the economy” and playing with the host nation children.

    What is the goal of the program? Is it for the children to learn the language? That is not going to happen with instruction only twice a week.
    At the School Board meeting, Stu Gibson said that the children would “lose” the language and never get it back if FCPS cut FLES! Well, tell me what happens when the students who are taught Chinese go to a middle school that does not offer Chinese? Or a high school that does not offer Chinese?

    Is the purpose of the program to teach about other cultures? The classroom teacher can do that. I would think that every school in FCPS has a wealth of parents that could be invited in to teach about their countries. What a great way to get reticent parents involved in their children’s education!

    I am also stunned at the number of staff people in the system. There is something wrong when a system takes care of the staff (Gatehouse, for example) and does not put the children first. And, if they do need space for staff, how about using space at some of the underutilized schools?

    Thanks again for the post. Keep up the good work!

    Comment by fcpsmom — March 17, 2011 @ 9:44 am

    • Thanks for reading my blog! Please refer Red Apple Mom to others you know who are interested in education issues – particularly for Fairfax County. My site stats are growing rapidly and it’s encouraging to see so many people in our county getting informed on the issues. Thank you parents, taxpayers and all of our wonderful teachers!

      Comment by Red Apple Mom — March 17, 2011 @ 6:10 pm


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