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FEC Official Positions

Louise Epstein, Chairman: Email To School Board, June 5, 2013

June 8, 2013 by Greg Brandon

Dear School Board Members,

On behalf of the Fairfax Education Coalition, I encourage you to give substantial weight to the recommendations of your Ad Hoc Community Committee on Student Rights & Responsibilities when voting on tomorrow night's amendments.

As designed by the board, the committee comprehensively engaged representatives for all stakeholders. It genuinely reflected community perspectives on the difficult discipline issues with which you entrusted it. We were impressed by this community engagement process, and appreciate your work and the work of the committee members.


Louise Epstein

Chair, Fairfax Education Coalition

Testimony by Louise Epstein: May 13, 2013: FCPS FY 2014 Budget

June 8, 2013 by Greg Brandon

FCPS Budget Hearing Testimony

Louise Epstein, Chair, Fairfax Education Coalition

May 13, 2013

Louise Epstein, Chairman: School Board BudgetTestimony, May 15, 2012

May 16, 2012 by Louise Epstein

[FEC Chairman Louise Epstein provided this testimony to the School Board on May 15, 2012.]

Good evening. My name is Louise Epstein, and tonight I am speaking as the chair of the bipartisan Fairfax Education Coalition.

Our coalition advocates for improved transparency, public engagement and accountability and includes the Fairfax Education Association, Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, FAIRGRADE, SLEEP, FairfaxCAPS, Fairfax County Association for the Gifted, Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform, Real Food For Kids and Restore Honors Courses. Our members also are active in The Coalition of The Silence, the FCCPTA and school PTAs.

First, thank you for starting your budget mark-up with the Advertised Budget you voted for, rather than the Superintendent’s revisions. As some of you noted during your budget work session, this improves transparency by clearly showing the changes from your Advertised Budget to the final FY 2013 budget.

We also want to thank you for making time to consider the public’s testimony, before you submit your proposed amendments to the budget. Next year, we hope that you will provide more time. In addition, you may want to look at the format of the MCPS budget documents as a model to improve transparency. That format also reduces the need for budget questions, which should help address Supervisor concerns.

This year, the crucial question is whether FCPS should phase in the VRS changes over 5 years or implement them in one year. Our research, although not comprehensive, suggests that most Virginia school districts are choosing to phase in the VRS changes gradually.

In light of what we have learned, we recommend that you phase in the VRS change by 1% in FY 2013.

This will give you more flexibility to fund other priorities. It also will give you time to obtain and carefully assess the arguments and data about the impact on how to best phase in the remaining VRS changes.

In evaluating the Superintendent’s suggestion that you immediately implement the full 5% VRS change, we also suggest you consider experts’ recommendations about how to avoid potential abuses of defined benefit pension plans. Actuaries counsel against large salary increases for employees nearing retirement since such increases, sometimes referred to as "spiking," put an additional strain on pension plans. According to the National Institute on Retirement Security, anti-spiking policies ensure actuarial integrity and transparency.

Evaluating these and other relevant considerations would be a good project for School Board staff and/or for a truly Independent Auditor who reports to a truly independent Audit Committee. Accordingly, we urge you to include funding for School Board staff and an Independent Auditor in the FY 2013 Budget. Once they are hired, you can ask them for an independent analysis of budget issues before you have to vote on the FY 2014 Advertised Budget.

Thank you.

Louise Epstein, Chairman: Board of Supervisor Testimony, Apr. 10, 2012

April 12, 2012 by Louise Epstein

[FEC Chairman Louise Epstein provided this testimony to the Board of Supervisors on April 10, 2012.]

Good evening. My name is Louise Epstein, and tonight I am speaking as the chair of the Fairfax Education Coalition.

Our bipartisan coalition is dedicated to improving public involvement in the Fairfax County Public Schools and advocating for improved transparency, public engagement and accountability. Currently, our coalition includes the Fairfax Education Association, Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, FAIRGRADE, SLEEP, FairfaxCAPS, Fairfax County Association for the Gifted, Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform and Real Food For Kids. We also have members who are active in Coalition of The Silence, the FCCPTA and school PTAs. In addition, three former Coalition members now serve on the School Board.

Louise Epstein, Chairman: Email To School Board Concerning School Board Audit Committee

April 9, 2012 by Louise Epstein

[Email from Louise Epstein, Chairman of FEC, to the School Board Members sent on Monday, April 9th.]

Dear School Board Members:

The Fairfax Education Coalition (FEC) noted with interest your recent Forum discussion about the composition of the School Board Audit Committee. We were pleased to hear Board members comment about the need to look at the full range of Audit Committee options. In connection with this topic, we haveseveral suggestions.

As a threshold issue, we believe it would be helpful to list all voting members of school board committees on your Board Committee page on the FCPS website:

Budget Testimony by Louise Epstein, Chairman of the FEC

February 5, 2012 by Louise Epstein

[The following testimony was delivered by FEC Chair Louise Epstein during the Public Hearing on the FCPS FY 2013 Advertised Budget on January 30, 2012. Greg Brandon, Web Editor]

Roundtable Discussion with Board Members and FEC Proposals

January 20, 2012 by Phyllis Payne

[From the Web Editor: During the summer of 2010, FEC had the opportunity to discuss several proposals during informal discussions with School Board Members Dan Storck, Janie Strauss, Brad Center, and Ilryong Moon. The dialogues were extremely productive and as a result, the FEC developed the following proposals.]

Roundtable Discussions with School Board Members

Fairfax Education Coalition Proposals:

Communications, Transparency, Oversight

1.  Post additional agenda materials to the FCPS website to include: Staff assessment of alternatives to recommendations, leadership team memos, and studies and analyses used to develop recommendations.

Following is language from the Strategic Governance Operational Expectations (Relationship with the Board):

…[T]he Superintendent will: … offer professional advice to the Board with appropriate recommendations based on thorough study and analysis supported by ample information, including assessment of alternatives, to enable Board members to make informed decisions.

School Board members and the public occasionally are not provided relevant or significant staff analysis prior to a School Board decision on the issue. All documents today are electronic and it is easy to post them on the FCPS website. If documents cannot be made publicly available for privacy or other reasons, they should be identified and the reason given.

2.  Direct staff to respond more fully to public input. Examine questions or concerns raised at public hearings and post a written response with the corresponding school board's work session agenda.

3.  Allow a minimum of four weeks between the time new business is presented to the board and action is taken, except for time-sensitive matters. Many public groups meet monthly and this allows time for advocacy and community groups to evaluate the new business and provide input. This also allows the School Board time to reflect on the new business and get input and information it needs.

4.  Provide more complete minutes of the school board meetings and work sessions. Minutes should include hyperlinks to the supporting documents in the meeting agenda. These supporting documents should have descriptive titles.

5.  Provide the School Board with additional dedicated staff to facilitate oversight of FCPS.

FEC Urges School Board to Defer Vote on “Priority Schools Initiative” -- Says FCPS School Board & Public Need More Data, Details & Debate Before Voting

January 20, 2012 by Greg Brandon

Fairfax County -- Wednesday, May 19, 2010 – The Fairfax Education Coalition (FEC) said today it is strongly urging members of the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) School Board to defer a vote on the “Priority Schools Initiative” that is currently scheduled for Thursday, May 20th as part of the FCPS FY 2011 Budget Adoption.

FEC is in agreement with the many Parent/Teacher Associations and Organizations (PTAs/PTOs), community leaders, concerned Fairfax citizens and those members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors who have publicly expressed concern that the proposed “Priority Schools Initiative” was proposed too late in the FY2011 FCPS budget process to receive a thorough evaluation and, therefore, a vote on the issue should be deferred until the School Board and public’s concerns are thoroughly addressed.

Please Click HERE For The Entire Media Release.

FEC Official Statement on Full Day Kindergarten Implementation

January 20, 2012 by Greg Brandon

FEC supports expeditious implementation of full-day Kindergarten in the remaining 37 (out of 139) elementary schools.

Teachers’ Unions & Parent Advocates Call for Reform In Superintendent Review Say School Board Can’t Make a Fully-Informed Decision Under Current Rules

September 3, 2009 by admin

Fairfax County, VA –Thursday, September 3, 2009— An unprecedented number of influential parent advocacy groups including FAIRGRADE, SLEEP, FairfaxCAPS, Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform (FZTR), the F

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