The Fairfax County School Board established employee compensation as a priority in the Fiscal Year 2020 advertised budget it adopted in February, and thanks to a transfer request that was fully funded by the county, the school board was able to ultimately fulfill its promise.
Nearly 90 percent of the $3 billion FY 2020 budget approved by the school board on May 23 is devoted to employee compensation, which will receive an $81 million increase from the FY 2019 budget, according to a presentation delivered to the school board by Fairfax County Public Schools staff on May 9.
That additional $81 million allows FCPS to allocate a total of $55.2 million toward enhancing teacher salary scales and $46.8 million toward a step increase for eligible employees, including a 1 percent market scale adjustment in both cases to keep salaries competitive with market rates.
The budget adjustments amount to a 6.2 percent average salary increase for teachers, as FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand noted following a presentation of Fairfax County’s advertised FY 2020 budget on Feb. 19.
While teachers often take center stage in conversations about employee compensation in public education, FCPS’s FY 2020 adopted budget addresses needs of other staff as well by increasing the living wage to $15.50 and funding the first year of a three-year plan to bring instructional assistant salaries within 50 percent of the salaries for teachers with a bachelor’s of arts degree.
“I’m especially pleased that the Board has agreed to begin to address the need for fair compensation for our classroom instructional assistants,” School Board Mount Vernon District Representative and chair Karen Corbett Sanders said. “IAs play a key role in supporting our classroom teachers to ensure that students receive the maximum benefit from learning activities.”
The FY 2020 budget for Fairfax County’s public school system also includes money for several new staff positions.
FCPS’s Get2Green environmental stewardship program will have two new positions, one for a specialist in the Instructional Services Department and one for a coordinator in the Department of Facilities and Transportation Services.
First formed in 2010 by a handful of FCPS principals, the Get2Green program fosters student learning and activities related to the environment while also developing, implementing, and promoting sustainability goals across the school division.
The addition of new Get2Green staff comes in a year when Fairfax County has started to commit more attention and resources to addressing environmental issues.
The FY 2020 budget adopted by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on May 7 included $276,749 for two staff positions in a newly created county office of environment and energy. The supervisors collaborated with the school board in April to establish a joint environmental task force that will coordinate sustainability and efficiency efforts across the county and school system.
The Board of Supervisors also approved a Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy program on Mar. 19 designed to make it easier for businesses to reduce the energy consumption of their buildings, and the county is seeking bids for power purchase agreements to install solar panels on about 234 government and school buildings.
School Board Hunter Mill District Representative Pat Hynes, who has led many of the board’s environmental efforts, says she was glad to see funding for the two Get2Green staff positions and expressed hope that a third proposed position will eventually be added.
“We need these positions as full-time positions as we expand Get2Green work in our schools,” Hynes said. “…As this board takes on an active role through the joint environmental task force with the Board of Supervisors and county government on addressing the existential threat of climate change to our community, we will need that kind of expertise and support in staff, so I think these positions will help with that.”
Other new positions funded by the FCPS FY 2020 budget include 16 staff members to bring full-time Advanced Academic resource teachers to an additional 33 Title I elementary schools, which are the schools with the highest poverty levels based on the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
Nine faculty positions will be added to the Chantilly, Edison, Falls Church, Marshall, and West Potomac Academies so that they can each host two language programs. The schools can choose between American Sign Language, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese.
The Fairfax Academy will also get an additional staff member to enhance student access to ASL, and two new world language resource teachers have been added to support the development of additional program offerings through the FCPS Online Campus.
Among the most critical items in the FY 2020 budget, however, is the $800,000 allocated to hiring eight new behavior intervention teachers, including one for each of FCPS’s five regions.
FCPS Behavior Intervention Services currently consists of a program manager, a specialist, and 17 teachers with two assigned to each region.
The county recently came under scrutiny after WAMU published an investigation in March alleging that FCPS uses restraint and seclusion techniques excessively in elementary schools for students with disabilities and failed to report the incidents to the U.S. Department of Education.
FCPS guidelines dictate that those techniques are only to be used in cases where a student’s behavior endangers themselves or other people, but WAMU’s report prompted Brabrand to order an evaluation of the school district’s policies and practices on Mar. 15.
Preliminary findings from the review that were released during a school board work session on Apr. 2 showed that 203 students were subjected to seclusion and restraint measures in 1,679 incidents during the 2017-18 school year, according to WAMU.
In addition to funding new behavior intervention teacher positions, the FY 2020 budget includes $300,000 to provide professional development training for faculty that may be tasked with addressing student behavior.
FCPS’s operating fund for the upcoming fiscal year represents an increase of 4 percent, or $114.7 million over the FY 2019 budget, including $16.1 million for instructional programs.
With 86 percent of the overall budget allocated to instructional programs, the school system will expand its FCPSOn initiative, distributing laptops to every high school student next school year.
FCPS will also add three schools to its Advancement Via Individual Determination program, which aims to close achievement gaps by instructing students in study skills and college and career readiness.
Fairfax County schools receive the majority of their funding from the county government, which will provide 71.4 percent of the district’s budget in FY 2020. The district anticipates receiving 23.7 percent of its budget from the state, which gives the county approximately half of what other Virginia jurisdictions receive, according to FCPS.
“This is a good news budget that reflects the school board’s commitment to ensuring equity of opportunity and excellent classroom experiences for all of our students,” Corbett Sanders said. “For the second consecutive year, our budget request was fully funded by the Board of Supervisors, and we thank our county partners for their continuing support of our school division.”