More than 40 percent of educators in Fairfax County public schools said teachers do not have enough time in the classroom to meet the needs of their students, according to the newly released results of a school system survey on working conditions.
The anonymous survey canvassed licensed educators in county schools, including teachers, principals, counselors, psychologists and more, on the teaching environment at their school. The results show teacher workloads as one of their largest areas of concern, as teachers struggle to fit their responsibilities into a school day that often seems too short.
Nearly one-third (32 percent) of the educators said they spent more than 10 hours each week on school work outside of the regular school day.
Of the more than 13,750 respondents, 41 percent said teachers at their school did not have enough instructional time, up 5 percent from 2011-12 school year. Close to the same percentage said teachers’ planning time was also insufficient.
The survey, which had an 82 percent response rate across the county, has been given biennially since 2008 in FCPS through New Teacher Center, a non-profit organization that helps school districts create supportive school environments for teachers. Of the survey respondents, about 11,700 were teachers.
The Fairfax Education Association, a union representing more than 5,000 school employees, conducted its own member survey from April 18-May 5 focused specifically on workload. While the full results will be released later this month, FEA president Kimberly Adams said that 77 percent of teachers surveyed say their workload is unreasonable.
Adams cites a surplus of student assessment measures and a constant stream of well-intentioned but time-consuming education initiatives mandated by administrators as examples of strains on teacher time.
“It’s asinine if you say your teachers are professionals and then treat them like robots,” Adams said. “When these programs finally reach the ground level, the classroom, there’s way too much to wade through for the educator.”
With the School Board deliberating on the school budget heading into its final vote next Thursday, May 22, workload played a key role at the board’s public hearing Tuesday.
“Almost everyone who spoke about salary talked not only about the money but about the workload being crippling,” Adams said. “And if you can’t fix the workload, you need to balance that by giving teachers more compensation.”
Adams fought at the hearing for a full 2 percent salary increase for school employees for the next school year. Superintendent Karen Garza initially included the raise, at a price tag of $41 million, in her budget, but has since proposed a four-month delay in implementing the salary increase to help make up a budget shortfall.
The Board of Supervisors gave the school system a 3 percent increase in county funding, or $51.5 million more than schools received for this year. But that was well short of the 5.7 percent increase Garza requested in her budget.
School officials expect about $30 million in state funding to help close the $46.6 million gap, but the school system had to make up a $17 million deficit.
Moving the planned pay raise to later in the fiscal year would save the school system about $10.4 million. Most employees would see the bump in their paycheck starting in November, rather than the beginning of the fiscal year in July.
While Adams pushed the School Board to find money for the full-year salary increase, the president of another local educators union took another tack. Steve Greenburg, president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, urged employees at Tuesday’s public hearing to support the new budget, salary delay included.
Greenburg said he does not believe the school system can fund the full salary increase, but he views the budget situation as an opportunity to negotiate on the issue of teacher workload.
“Both time and money are important,” Greenburg said. “Both affect students. But if you don’t have enough money, you should do even more on the other side for job satisfaction. If you can’t give us money, work to give some time back to our teachers.”