Facts on FCPS Enrollment Projections and Needs-Based Staffing Formula

The Student Enrollment FY 2011-FY 2015: FRM, ESOL, Total can be viewed in this FY 2016 Budget Questions document. FRM and ESOL projections and actuals by each school are reported starting on page 18 of the document.

Enrollment Projections and the FCPS Needs-Based Staffing Formula

Every year, FCPS publishes school-level projections in the Capital Improvement Program (CIP), to prioritize additions, new schools, and renovations.  They also are used to determine if programs (such as AAP Centers) will be moved or located. http://www.fcps.edu/fts/planning/cip.shtml

FCPS uses similar school-specific ESOL, FRM and total student enrollment projections to develop the Proposed Budget, by inputting these school-level projections into the FCPS needs-based staffing formula.

Under the FY 2015 version of the FCPS needs-based staffing formula, if more than 20% of a school’s students qualify for FRM, each FRM student counts as 1.3 to 1.5 students (depending on the percentage of FRM students at the school).  Similarly, each ESOL student counts as 1.45 to 1.5 students, and a student who is both FRM and ESOL will count as up to 2.0 students.  Those “weighted” enrollment projections for each school are divided by a fixed number (e.g., 26.75) to determine the number of teachers and other staff positions FCPS will initially allocate to that school. http://www.fcps.edu/fs/budget/budgetdocuments.shtml

The assumed sites (schools) of projected FRM, ESOL and other students can affect the “enrollment” adjustment that FCPS requests from the Board of Supervisors in the FCPS Advertised Budget.  If more FRM and ESOL students are assumed to be located in high-FRM schools, there will be higher projected costs than if those same FRM and ESOL students are assumed to be located in lower-FRM schools.

For example, the FY 2015 Proposed Budget included a $25.8 million increase ($7,648 per extra student).  This amount assumed that FCPS would have 3,369 more students, 25,715 (13.7%) would qualify for special education services, 28,870 (15.4%) would qualify for English as a Second Language (ESOL) services, and 52,638 (28.0%) would qualify for Free and Reduced-Price Meals (FRM).[1]



In contrast, the FY 2013 Proposed Budget included a $45.7 million enrollment adjustment ($11,485 per extra student).  FCPS assumed 24,931 (13.7%) would qualify for special education services, 32,255 would qualify for ESOL services (8,427 more than during FY 2012, or 17.8%) and 25.4% would qualify for FRM.

[1] As of November 2014, 13.8% of FCPS students received special education services, 17.2% received ESOL services, and 28.2% were eligible for FRM.  http://www.fcps.edu/fs/budget/documents/approved/FY15/CitizensGuidetotheBudgetFY15.pdf

What happens when inaccurate projections are used in the Staffing Formula?

FCPS publishes approved detailed budgets, which show the results when the needs-based staffing formula is applied to each school’s enrollment projections.  The number of positions at each school for each job category is listed, plus the combined salaries for people in that category (e.g., 1st through 6th grade teachers). http://www.fcps.edu/fs/budget/documents/detailed/approved/2015/index.shtml

Schools with high projections in the detailed approved budgets get more teachers than they would receive based on their actual enrollment.  Conversely, schools with low projections get fewer teachers than they would receive if their projections were accurate.  Given past inaccuracies in school-level projections, FCPS has “hired an expert demographer to study enrollment projections and staffing.” Link to InsideNova article.

This year, for example, Carson MS had 1430 students in September, but FCPS allocated teacher positions based on projections of 1377 students.   Conversely, Poe MS was projected to have 932 students, but had only 871 students in September.

Even if projections were accurate, the needs-based staffing formula would generate a wide range of class sizes and per-pupil costs. The following table is based on the information in the FY 2015 detailed approved budgets for each school.


Carson Cooper Kilmer Long-fellow Poe Twain Whitman
FY 15 Mean Est. GE/AAP Class Size (no trades) 26 24 25 25 18 23 20
Mean School-Based $ Per Pupil $5,973 $7,145 $5,840 $5,736 $7,527 $7270 $7,821
Total Students Sept 2014 (Actual) 1430 727 1312 1393 871 930 969
AAP Center? Yes No Yes Yes No Yes No
% FY 14 Spec Ed Services 10% 13% 10% 8% 18% 16% 19%
% FY 14 Limited English Proficient (LEP) 5% 5% 10% 8% 34% 14% 23%
% FY 14 English as 2nd Language Services (ESOL) 4% 4% 9% 7% 28% 12% 20%
% FY 14 Free & Reduced Price Meals (FRM) 10% 3% 14% 8% 73% 38% 60%

Note:  The mean school-based costs per pupil exclude the cost of employee benefits, which are not provided in the detailed operating budgets for each school.

What happens when principals “Trade” classroom teacher positions?

After FCPS allocates specific numbers of classroom teacher, aide and other positions to a school using the needs-based staffing formula and enrollment projections, principals can “trade” positions.  Although trades in theory could be used to reduce class sizes (such as by trading a resource teacher for a classroom teacher), many principals have used trades to increase class sizes.

The use of principal trades is illustrated in the chart below.   Franklin Sherman’s principal traded two (2) classroom teacher positions, thereby increasing average general education class sizes from about 22 to 25 students per class.  Beechtree’s principal traded four (4) classroom teacher positions, thereby increasing average general education class sizes from about 16 to 20 students per class.

Franklin Sherman ES

Beechtree ES

FY 15 Projected Students, Detailed Approved Budget



Sept 2014 Actual Enrollment, including special education students excluded from class size counts



Sept 2014 KG – 6 General Education Enrollment



# KG – 6 general education classroom teachers allocated in FY 15 Detailed Approved Budget



# KG – 6 general education classroom teachers as of September 2014, after principal traded positions



Average KG – 6 general education class sizes, if the principal had not traded teacher positions



Average KG – 6 general education class sizes, after principal traded classroom teacher positions



% Students receiving ESOL Services in FY 2014



% Students receiving FRM in FY 2014



% of Students receiving Special Ed Services FY 2014



Federal Title 1 Funding?



Virginia K-3 Class Reduction Funding?



Fairfax County Needs-based staffing funding?



Dr. Garza and her regional assistant superintendents have indicated that in future years, principals will be required to explain the reasons why they are asking to trade classroom teacher and other positions.

Countywide Staffing Reserve

FCPS generally has allowed schools that benefitted from inaccurately high projections to keep the extra teachers.   In other words, if a school received 2 extra teachers because its projections were about 50 (needs-weighted) students higher than its actual September enrollment, that school usually kept the extra teachers.

Schools that received too few teachers due to inaccurate low projections were less lucky.  Their principals could apply for more positions from the FCPS staffing reserve.  However, some principals did not apply because they were told or suspected that their application probably would be denied.  Principals with accurate enrollment projections also could apply for staffing reserve positions.

Assuming a principal applied for staffing reserve positions, her chance of success would depend in part on whether the regional assistant superintendent supported the request.  The application would be reviewed by a committee, whose members would discuss whether a particular school “needed” more teachers.  Those discussions could be influenced by prior conversations with School Board members, the Superintendent, other administrators and/or the public.

Staffing Formulas and School Construction and Renovation

School Board member Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield District) has questioned whether FCPS should continue to fund very small class sizes in some schools, given the shortage of funds for school construction and renovation.

The FY 2015-19 CIP states that “construction of new capacity, whether it is a new school or addition, could adversely impact the timing of some renovation projects.”  “Renovations are also used to restore capacity lost due to low-ratio special program instruction.”  Also, some schools have “significant capacity deficits” due to “lower-ratio instruction.” The CIP recommends future boundary changes, AAP program changes, and other actions. http://www.fcps.edu/fts/planning/cip/cipbook2015-19.pdf

The Facilities Planning Advisory Council (FPAC) noted the severity of the problem and called for many changes, including a pilot to eliminate AAP Centers. http://www.fcps.edu/fts/planning/fpac/reports/annual/schoolyear2013-14.pdf

School Board member Elizabeth Schultz has suggested that FCPS consider adopting a minimum class size, so FCPS can reduce the need for trailers and additions that supersede renovations of aging schools.   This year SY2014-2015, for example, FCPS has about 1000 elementary classes with 20 or fewer students, many in schools FCPS deems to be “over capacity” and which use trailers and/or are slated for additions.

On February 5, 2015 the School Board voted to approve the FY 2016 Advertised Budget. School Board member Elizabeth Schultz moved to direct the Superintendent to complete a review of the minimum class size generated through the elementary staffing formula; further move that the Superintendent report the findings to the School Board prior to April 27, 2015, which would allow for a discussion at a work session scheduled prior to the presentation of the FY 2016 Approved Budget.

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.

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