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Fairfax County public school teachers pleaded for School Board members to include funding within the budget that could help rebalance workloads, increase pay and add to student resources.

The School Board is set to approve a $2.5 billion operating budget on May 23. The fiscal year begins July 1 and ends June 30, 2014. The budget represents a 2.7 percent increase ($67 million) from the current school year’s budget. The increase in funding is partially due to increases in student enrollment, which is projected to be at 184,939 (2,857 added) next year, as well as demographic shifts, which include a higher percentage (16 percent) of students needing English language learner classes and increases of students below the poverty line (27.3 percent). While the school system will receive more funding next year, the Board of Supervisors approved a lower allocation than requested by the School Board, which is now looking for $30.5 million in cuts.

The School Board’s advertised budget currently includes a 2 percent mid-year market scale adjustment in pay for teachers and other school employees. Funding also includes a 3 percent increase to offset Virginia Retirement System [VRS] pay-in requirements for teachers.

“This proposal helps protect our new hires who are already paying 5 percent in to the VRS and provides us with the opportunity to take advantage of the $6 million in free money being offered by the state for salaries…,” Fairfax County Federation of Teachers President Steve Greenburg said. “[Teachers, parents and the community] understand that the school systems around us are giving [pay] increases and we need to stay competitive… They also understand the importance of a strong school system to maintain economic viability to attract businesses and the well educated.

“Many with me also understand politics. We do not much care for ‘Let’s starve everyone for three years, then throw in a raise right before the next election and hope that everyone forgot about starving.’ We understand PACs [Political Action Committees] and PAC funds. We understand walking neighborhoods, sending out letters and getting out the vote. Some of us even understand that many of you would make great Supervisors…”

Many teachers also spoke to the need to maintain staffing school-based instructional coaches, who work with teachers on team planning and collaboration and are “integral members of professional learning communities,” according to the school system’s website.

There are 78 instructional coaches in 72 FCPS schools. The School Board may choose to cut these positions in order to save part of the $30.5 million.

“I understand that the 2014 budget requires the county to make reductions and sacrifices. I know that some have suggested that eliminating instructional coaching jobs from schools and putting those instructors back into the classroom would save money and be helpful for schools and teachers,” said Camelot Elementary School sixth-grade teacher Ellen Rogers. “This could not be further from the truth. Instructional coaches are a vital part of a successful school.”

Rogers and several other teachers and principals who spoke during Tuesday’s public hearing said instructional coaches support collaboration, facilitate data collection on students that can shape instructional decisions, and aid teachers in their lesson planning.

“My instructional coach helps me navigate the needs of my students,” Rogers said. “I’m a better teacher because of my instructional coach.”

For more on the school system’s budget, visit http://www.fcps.edu/news/fy2014.shtml.

hhobbs@fairfaxtimes.com