Red Apple Mom

March 30, 2011

Parents, Teachers & Five-Year Old Lobbyists

The Board of Supervisors held their first night of public hearings Tuesday night.  Adorable four and five-year olds were  in the audience with their parents and teachers advocating for increased education funding and teacher pay raises.

My remarks to Supervisors focused on the fact that FCPS should scrap their budget and re-build it.  We deserve a budget that focuses on the community’s priorities first – not administrative spending.  Here is my speech:

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Budget Hearings

March 29, 2011- Advertised 2012 Budget

Hello.  My name is Catherine Lorenze.  I am a co-founder of the Fairfax Education Coalition and FAIRGRADE and author of the Red Apple Mom blog. I am speaking for myself tonight – as the mother of three children.

When the School Board passed their budget last month, Member Patty Reed said it was “unrealistic.”  Tina Hone called FCPS’ budget “a myth.”  Member Jim Raney commented that perhaps the budget should be scrapped and rebuilt from scratch.

A lot of promises have been made on FDK and staff raises.

Now you must decide if FCPS’ promises are your responsibility to solve.

Please look at the funding statement located on page 147 of FCPS’ advertised budget that I have attached.  This statement shows a nearly $48 million reserve.

I hope you’ll ask serious questions about why FCPS is carrying over tens of millions of dollars going into next year.  Why were those funds not used this year to meet critical priorities?   Money sitting in a pot doesn’t serve the interests of school children and teachers.

I can’t help but wonder if FCPS is giving the community and you all the facts about this budget.  I attended the meeting between your two boards a couple of weeks ago.  When discussing the FDK issue, Supervisor Hudgins specifically asked school officials if any other programs had been implemented or expanded during the time FDK implementation was halted.  They answered no.  In fact, while FDK languished – the School Board voted to expand the Foreign Language in the Elementary Schools Program.  And last year, they implemented a new program called the Priority Schools Initiative.

I agree with School Board member Jim Raney’s suggestion.  FCPS should scrap this budget and re-build it based on the public’s priorities which include FDK, teacher pay and importantly – lowering class size.   Last year, our school had a sixth grade class with 39 students.  This year, my son’s 5th grade class at Spring Hill Elementary currently has 35 students.  It has the feel of a poultry farm.  When it gets hot and stuffy, it smells like a poultry farm too.

My request to take a picture of his crowded classroom was denied by my principal.  However, I have attached a photo from nearby Churchill Elementary School that continues to also experience ridiculously large class sizes.

Regrettably, FCPS has allowed a subset of children in this county to shoulder the burden of budget cuts by way of super-sized class sizes.  This is simply unfair.

Please remember this when considering the FCPS budget transfer:   children and teachers deserve a budget that is focused on them and their needs first – not on Gatehouse staff whose work has minimal impact on my children and their teachers.

If kids are the priority FCPS claims them to be – then FCPS should reflect that in their budget priorities with reasonable class size and FDK.  FCPS should put their money where their mouth is, rather than making you absolve them of their fiduciary responsibility as recipients of 54% of the county budget.

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2 Comments

  1. I heard your comments last night and thought they were spot on and a strong call to action. I particularly appreciated you highlighting the fact that other more elective programs had been greenlighted by the School Board while a basic full day kindergarten program had not been equitably and equally funded county wide. I also appreciated you highlighting the excess $48 million for the Board of Supervisors. Voters should pay attention to these issues in November when some of these members are up for reelection.

    Comment by suzrich36 — March 30, 2011 @ 10:05 am

  2. Thank you for your kind comments. A point of clarification – The whole school board is up for re-election this November. Several incumbents have decided not to run again but a handful will be be seeking re-election. We clearly need a NEW GENERATION OF LEADERSHIP. Long-serving incumbents like Jane Strauss and Ilyrong Moon must go! They are the problem. They don’t “get It” – whether it’s grading policies, disciplinary policies, full-day kindergarten implementation or a slew of other issues – most of these older School Board members are never ahead of the curve on the important issues making headlines! With all the high-paid “talent” in the Gatehouse FCPS headquarters, why is it that parent advocates have to keep raising the issues of the day? It’s parent advocates who are consistently bringing forth relevant points in the law (FOIA/Open Meetings Law), research and data AND focusing on the issues important to students, parents and teachers. Our public schools have many challenges, but seriously – why aren’t the high-paid administrative staffers doing THEIR jobs for the School Board and providing this relevant data and research?! When a new School Board comes in next year, they need to clear out the useless dead weight at the FCPS headquarters!

    Comment by Red Apple Mom — March 31, 2011 @ 11:09 pm


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