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PART I: 2011 FCPS Budget Testimony by FEC Members

September 6, 2010 by Greg Brandon

Louise Epstein, Caroline Hemenway, and Phyllis Payne were three of the five Fairfax Education Coalition members who testified to the School Board last January.  Their original testimony is provided below.

Louise identified several misleading budget figures:

  • This year, FCPS is spending over $404 million out of its $2.2 billion budget on central headquarters departments. That’s 18% - not the 8% claimed.
  • Since 2004, headquarters department budgets increased about 29%, from $312 million to about $404 million. Compared to 2008, these budgets declined by 1%, not the 15% claimed in public meetings. The proposed $14.6 million cut for FY 2011 in central department budgets is 3.5%, not the 5% claimed in public meetings.
  • Your budget chair, Mrs. Strauss, explained at a recent meeting that the proposed budget cuts 5% in central staff positions, not central budgets. Not many people realize this, nor that the Proposed Budget eliminates few directors, coordinators, specialists, and other administrators who cost over $100,000 each, when you include their employee benefits.

Click HERE For Full Testimony

Caroline, an expert in  management systems, identified systemic deficiencies in the budget process: 

  • The process is almost entirely reactionary. There is no visible long-term planning.
  • The effectiveness or overlap of myriad programs and staff positions have not been adequately reviewed, or analyzed, at least to the knowledge of those of us who have managed to get hold of and interpret the FCPS budget documents we could find. The data we’ve unearthed from FCPS demonstrate all kinds of inconsistencies as well.
  • There is no way, therefore, to make cogent decisions about what to keep and what to consolidate and what to jettison, especially when you’re under the gun. How can you possibly go away from these nights with information you can evaluate and use for this particular budget? There is no time.

Click HERE For Full Testimony

Phyllis made important points about sports, language, and music programs:

  • Indoor track? The sport with the lowest per pupil cost and almost 3,000 participants! With the newly proposed fees, this sport is almost cost neutral. Why eliminate the opportunity for so many teens to be actively engaged in a healthy activity all winter instead of decreasing costs to make the sport cost-neutral?
  • Freshman sports? Why spend millions to keep 7th and 8th grade
  • Cut swim practices in half? This seems like robbing Peter to pay Paul. The schools pay to use the pools, so if we’re not paying, the County loses money. Swim/dive teams have the shortest practice times and about 36 practice days per year. If trimming practice time saves money, why not trim practices for athletes with the longest practices instead of the shortest? Parents would thank you.
  • Cut costs, not programs. Don’t pit parent group against parent group. Give us a budget that we can all support. Look for creative solutions. Spending priorities should be on students and teachers.
  • Cuts to music and foreign language hurt our children and our future. These activities help develop the brain and are vital to academic achievement which this board (thankfully) still rates as a top priority. The music advocates have learned that the cost savings are short-lived—resulting in fewer musicians in secondary school who instead of spending time in a class (band or orchestra) that has a high ratio of students to teacher must be placed in smaller-size elective classes that require a larger number of teachers.

Click HERE For Full Testimony

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