Announcing his last proposed budget on Thursday, retiring Superintendent Jack D. Dale said he hoped during his tenure, but failed, to restore additional planning and development time outside of the classroom for teachers.
“We’ve had to severely cut that back,” said Dale, who announced his proposed fiscal 2014 budget Thursday. The superintendent has proposed $2.5 billion in operational spending, which covers the 2013-14 school year. While the budget represents a 5.5 percent increase to the current $2.4 billion school year budget, Dale said the bulk of that increase will be used to address growing student enrollment and demographic shifts within Fairfax County Public Schools.
Teachers’ lack of planning time outside of the classroom has been a key concern among Fairfax County educators for the past few years. According to FCPS’ 2012 Working Conditions Survey of more than 12,000 county educators, time—or lack of—was a top concern. Of those respondents, 36 percent said the amount, quality and use of time during the workday is the most important condition promoting student learning.
“We made improvements in closing the achievement gap when we had that [extra time],” Dale said.
Mentoring programs that partner new and veteran teachers as well as time for developing collaboration efforts between educators in a school were highlighted by Dale as examples of cuts to teacher-time programs, which are not being restored under the superintendent’s proposed budget.
“The interesting thing about that is you are seeing programs pop up around the county that deal with [more teacher collaboration],” Dale said. The superintendent has included $6.5 million in his proposed budget for extending teacher time.
“It really only buys our teachers one extra day,” Dale said. “The U.S. is probably one of the worst in the world at providing teachers extra time.”
The superintendent said he was also concerned about employee compensation. Dale has proposed allocating $18.9 million to give employees, the bulk of who are teachers, a 1 percent market scale adjustment in compensation. Employee pay was frozen in fiscal 2010 and 2011. No step increases were issued in fiscal 2010, 2011 and 2013.
In the region, Fairfax County teacher starting salaries, averaging $45,161, fall in the middle of the pack, Dale said. However, for teachers with master’s degrees, who average salaries at $58,303, and the maximum salary of $96,039, Fairfax County compensation ranks in the lower half to bottom of the region’s 10 public school systems.
“I think we have a red flag that we need to pay attention to,” Dale said.
Teacher salaries are once again taking a back seat to growing enrollment within the school system and growth in students needing additional assistance, such as those in special education and English Language Learners programs.
Within the budget is $21.8 million to address student enrollment, which is projected to increase by nearly 3,000 students, and demographic shifts. About 71 percent of the schools budget is funded by the county. State contributions make up 15 percent of the budget. The remainder of funds comes from federal aid, sales taxes, savings from the previous school year, fees and tuition paid by those attending county schools who reside outside of the county.
The superintendent also included funding for 309 additional new positions, with 292.5 of those being school based.
The first public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Jan. 29. The School Board is scheduled to adopt its approved budget on May 23.