FCPS Continues to Face Serious Fiscal Challenges
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is facing another budget deficit, due to revenues that have not kept pace with growing enrollment and increasing mandatory costs. Class sizes continue to increase to help with balancing the budget deficit.
Recent 2017 Local FCPS & Virginia News and Activities
- Not to increase elementary, middle and high school class sizes by 0.5 students
- To comply with FCPS Regulation 1302.1, which caps elementary class sizes at 29.
January 9, 2017 article in The Connection reporting that 80 citizens spoke directly to the Fairfax delegation of the General Assembly about county issues with CSC Co-Chair Jo Neuber and other residents’ testimony about class size issues being a top concern. Ms. Neuber thanked to Del. Jim Lemunyon (R-67) for developing three class size bills for the 2017 session of the Virginia General Assembly.
January 13, 2017 article in The Fairfax Times covers the same meeting with school funding being the emphasis, utilizing CSC Co-Chair Jo Neuber quotes as well.
CSC Press Release, Thursday, January 12, 2017:
Fairfax County Delegates, Senators Work Together to Introduce Key Education Legislation: Three New Bills Focused on Improving Student Achievement and Transparency
On behalf of all the Virginia children in overcrowded classes, Class Size Counts (CSC) thanks the state delegates who introduced three (3) new bills that promote student achievement by ensuring reasonable class sizes and increasing transparency.
HB 1498 – Lowers elementary school class size caps from 29 to 28 in Kindergarten, 30 to 28 in Grades 1-3, and 35 to 29 in Grades 4-6. Delegate Jim LeMunyon (67th District) is the Chief Patron, Mark Keam (35th District) is the Chief Co-Patron, and Delegates Jennifer Boysko (86th District) and Kaye Kory (38th District) are Co-Patrons.
HB 2173 – Caps science lab classes at 24 students consistent with safety recommendations by the American Chemistry Society, the National Science Teachers Association, and the National Science Education Leadership Association. This bill will prevent accidents during science experiments and improve the quality of middle and high school science instruction. Delegate Kathleen Murphy (34th District) is the Chief Patron on this bill, and Senator Janet Howell (32nd District) and Delegate Jim LeMunyon (67th District) are the Co-Patrons.
HB 2174 – Requires Virginia middle and high schools to publish their actual core academic class sizes. Although some middle and high schools provide this information voluntarily, other schools do not. This bill provides greater transparency so that administrators, parents, and the community can remain informed about class size problem areas and act quickly to correct problems. Delegate Kathleen Murphy (34th District) is the Chief Patron on this bill, and Senator Janet Howell (32nd District) and Delegate Jim LeMunyon (67th District) are the Co-Patrons.
Class Size Counts co-founder, Louise Epstein, added that “as soon as Delegate Murphy heard about the reporting and science lab cap proposals, she offered to sponsor the bills. I’m glad that my state delegate cares about school system transparency and student safety.”
Kaye Kory, who served on the Fairfax County Public School Board from 1999 – 2009, also immediately added her support, as did Jennifer Boysko, who worked on education issues as the assistant to Dranesville Supervisor, John Foust, and Janet Howell who was elected to the Virginia Senate in 1991.
Brian Heller, Co-President of Fairfax County Association of the Gifted, says, “These education bills will promote the fundamental goal of increasing student achievement and are therefore, extremely important to all Virginia public school children, teachers, and families.”
Kim Farrell added, “Huge classes are no longer acceptable to parents, teachers, students and taxpayers. We need problem-solvers who will do what is best for our kids, like these five delegates and senator who have worked together to introduce and patron these bills.”
Thursday, September 28, 2016: After reviewing Fairfax County’s proposed 4-percent meals tax, the Class Size Counts (CSC) board voted to support the November 8th referendum because it decided that it would be better to raise money for Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) through a tax on prepared foods rather than through additional increases to County property taxes.
The proposed tax on prepared foods is estimated to raise about $100 million per year. It would only apply to sales in areas of Fairfax County that do not already have their own meals taxes. About 28 percent of meals tax revenues would be paid by people who do not live in Fairfax County.
If the meals tax passes, the County’s annual transfer of funds to FCPS will include 70% of the meals tax proceeds, or approximately $70 million. Presumably, Supervisors take these meals tax revenues into account in determining how to allocate the County’s property tax and other revenues. However, the meals tax would serve to diversify the sources of County funds.
“I think we should have faith that the Board of Supervisors will do the right thing and transfer the full $70 million to the schools as promised, and also, we have good reason to believe that the school system would use the money to reduce class sizes and increase teacher salaries – two of the biggest issues currently plaguing the school system,” said Mike Wasserman, father of two FCPS students.
Reasonable class sizes are also a key component in teacher retention, since very large classes cause burnout. Many of our seasoned teachers are leaving the workforce, citing large class sizes as one of the top factors in their departure. According to one elementary school Principal, this fall, FCPS had more than 80 elementary classroom teacher vacancies that went unfilled for weeks, which made it a challenge for Principals to find experienced, long-term substitute teachers. Last year, over 200 FCPS classroom teacher positions were unfilled at one point, demonstrating the need for qualified, long-term substitute teachers.
Given all the time that students spend with substitute teachers, CSC also hopes that FCPS will allocate more of its budget to restore the pay supplement for retired teachers who serve as long-term substitute teachers. As Dave Thomas, past board member of the Fairfax Education Association explained, “retired teachers can provide a seamless continuation of instruction” when the regular teacher is on leave, especially when principals are struggling to fill long-term substitute teacher positions.
There aren’t a whole lot of alternatives – voters have a choice between additional property taxes or a meals tax. Given this choice, CSC board believes that the meals tax would be the better option, and strongly encourages FCPS to allocate funds from the County’s transfer in FY 2018 to reduce overcrowded classes and increase teacher salaries.
House Bill 1377 was signed by Governor McAuliffe on April 1, 2016. This bill was presented by Delegate Jim LeMunyon and supported by Delegate Mark Keam. Their efforts at the Virginia state level now requires Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) to notify parents if their children’s classes exceed the state’s existing (high) class size caps.
Virginia Education Association VEA press release February 2016 advertising statewide rallies to support public education with reference to class size increases being one of the factors jeopardizing the quality of Virginia’s public education system.
Review November 9, 2015 FCPS Budget Task Force Recommendations to address deficit in FY2017 budget. Potential class size changes are discussed for all high, middle, and elementary classes including online and Advanced Academics classes as well as needs-based staffing formula changes.
Read Fairfax Free Citizen article dated October 27, 2015 about Fairfax schools not living up to their reputation.
See Inside Nova.com/Sun Gazette letter to editor dated October 21, 2015 on educating voters on the School Board race candidates.
View Vienna Patch editorial about class size and the CSC Voter Guide dated Oct 16, 2016 which discusses School Board candidates’ positions on class size.
See Inside Nova.com/Sun Gazette debate article dated Oct 18, 2016 between Dranesville candidates Jane Strauss and Pete Kurzenhauser.
Review Arlington Magazine article dated September-October 2015 discussing the why NoVA parents send their kids to private school. Big reason? Large class sizes.
Press Release Tuesday, August 18, 2015, Fairfax County, VA
–CSC Releases Analysis on Fairfax County Public Schools Regulation 1302—
–What Regulation 1302 Means to Students–
On August 6, 2015 Class Size Counts (CSC) issued a press release outlining the new class size requirements for Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) under Regulation 1302. Regulation 1302 was adopted after the Superintendent, proposed, and the School Board agreed, to add $3.1 million in recurring funds and $0.8 million in one-time money to the teacher staffing reserve for the 2015-2016 school year.
The School Board can easily vote to eliminate these extra teacher positions for the 2016-17 school year, if they decide that students in schools that already have the largest class sizes aren’t one of their top priorities.
Additionally, the new Regulation requires the FCPS Human Resources Department and regional assistant superintendents to “thoroughly examine” the following factors in allocating FCPS staffing reserve positions:
- Current trades (including trades of positions and of instructional funds)
ISSUE: Principals whose schools receive no additional teachers and aides from special programs should not be penalized for trading one classroom teacher for a resource teacher. Otherwise, this factor exacerbates already-unfair staffing disadvantages for schools like Haycock Elementary School.
- The number of students at each grade level
ISSUE: This factor can be manipulated by principals who receive enough teachers from special programs to give all their students reasonable class sizes, but who create tiny classes in some grades to generate overcrowded classes in other grades, to justify their request for more teachers from the staffing reserve.
- The use of multi-age or combination classes within the school
ISSUE: This factor should not apply to schools that receive no extra teachers from special programs, because combination classes are much less effective with 30 students than with 18 students in a class.
- Available space in the building
ISSUE: Schools should not be penalized because FCPS has failed to build additions to hold all their students.
In February of 2015, CSC sent questionnaires to each of the School Board candidates to share their position on class size. The survey responses from several incumbent School Board members made it clear that they wanted to leave the door open to allocating these scarce staffing reserve positions to schools with small and average general education class sizes.
It will take strong leadership on the School Board to address the root cause of extreme inequities in class sizes within our enormous school system, to find common sense solutions, and to demand accountability for educational programs so that all children can learn in reasonably-sized classrooms.
 The six factors are: (1) Current use of school resources; (2) Current trades; (3) Number of students at each grade level; (4) Combination classes; (5) Available space in the building; and, (6) Time of year.
On July 28, 2015, FCPS quietly published Regulation 1302, which establishes new elementary class size standards and FCPS responses, including – if all else fails – the allocation of an additional aide or teacher position from the countywide staffing reserve to an elementary school with one or more large classes.
- Evaluate and adjust the principal’s proposed classroom teacher position trades, resource trades and uses of grant proceeds that increase class sizes;
- Consider creating multi-age or combination classes
- Consider using school funds or region office funds to lower class size
- Current use of school resources.
- Current trades (including trades of positions and of instructional funds).
- The number of students at each grade level.
- The use of multi-age or combination classes within the school.
- Available space in the building.
- Time of year.
Press Release May 2015 CSC – Fairfax County, VA: Students, Parents, and Class Size Counts Testify at May 12th Fairfax County Public School Board Meeting about Excessive Class Sizes.
View May 12, 2015 FCPS School Board Meeting to see students, parents and community leaders testify about large class sizes.
InsideNOVA opinion section posts a letter from Vienna parent stating Fairfax School Leaders Need to Give Up Focus on Needs Based Staffing on April 22, 2015.
McLean Citizens Association Resolution Class Sizes in Fairfax County Public Schools was approved on March 4, 2015. View MCA Class Size Resolution.
School Board approves the advertised FY2016 Budget which includes $3.1M to address the pocket areas that suffer from chronic large class sizes in the elementary schools. A follow up motion by School Board member Elizabeth Schultz was made requesting information and analysis with regards to the @1000 elementary classes that exist that are 20 or less students, as a means to explore improving the staffing formula for budgetary and equity purposes. View the February 5th debate at the meeting here. The motion failed. The four School Board members in favor were: Patricia S Reed, Megan McLaughlin, Sandra S Evans, and Elizabeth Schultz. The eight School Board members that opposed the request for information were: Ilryong Moon, Ryan McElveen, Patricia Hynes, Kathy L Smith, Tamara D Kaufax – Chairman, Theodore Velkoff – Vice Chairman, Daniel G Storck, and Jane K Strauss.
FCPS Administration responds to a series of questions by School Board members as part of their work session on the FY2016 Budget. View latest data on Student Enrollment FY 2011-FY2015 and other matters in the FY 2016 Budget Questions document.
Inaccurate enrollment projections presented as contributing factor in chronically large class sizes for many schools. A letter from FCPS parents is published on November 13, 2014 in The Fairfax Times. It is also posted with The Sun Gazette and INSIDE NOVA.
Listening Tour hosted by Superintendent Garza on December 6, 2014 reveals classroom overcrowding as one of the top concerns of the community. Reporter for Reston Now prints summary of the event.
Garza speaks at McLean Citizens Association on December 1, 2014 about education matters with an emphasis on overcrowded classrooms and budget concerns. Reporter for The Connection posts summary.
SY2013-2014 FCPS & Virginia News
Class Size Counts Article dated December 2013 in The Vienna Patch about extra large classes in Vienna, Oakton, McLean and Great Falls.
Listening Tours took place 2013-2014 fall and winter, hosted by Superintendent Garza. Number 1 concern voiced by the community was classroom overcrowding. Read report from The Connection.
Budget proposal cuts jobs and raises class size in Fairfax County. Details outlined in January 9, 2014 article in The Washington Post.
Funding from the County Board of Supervisors (BOS) has not kept up with FCPS growth. As a result, class sizes have grown and teachers have had to endure several years of salary freezes. Read a February 2014 Washington Post report that discusses various tactics by our teachers to highlight the consequences of a funding shortfall. Fairfax teachers, PTAs and civic groups started an online petition. It asks BOS to fully fund our schools.
Prince William Education Association (PWEA) is the news on class size. PWEA has a Class Size Matters campaign currently underway dealing with the same struggles that FCPS is experiencing. Their Class Size Matters petition and testimonies can be accessed here.