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What do you call a $10 million-a-year public school fund for which "no historical records" are available to document how and where the money was spent? Fairfax County Public Schools calls it the "staffing reserve." Irate parents refer to it as a slush fund.
The theory behind the staffing reserve is simple. It allows FCPS to hire additional teachers if there's an unexpected surge in enrollment. But it doesn't work that way in practice. For example, when the principal of Wolftrap Elementary asked for additional help because a third-grade class had 36 students, the school was allotted .2 teachers from the staffing reserve -- enough for one teacher to come in just one day a week.
Wolftrap is not the only Fairfax County school with classes much larger than the advertised average. Parents have painstakingly begun compiling a list after their requests for information about the staffing reserve were stonewalled by FCPS. Churchill Road, Haycock and Spring Hill elementary schools all have classes at or exceeding 30 students. This has been going on for years, even though numerous studies show academic achievement goes down when the student-teacher ratio goes up.