February Update from School Board Member Pat Hynes

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Hunter Mill District Newsletter

Contact Pat:


Pat Hynes



Melanie Turpin

Executive Admin Assistant




Update on FY 2017 Budget

At our February 4 regular business meeting, the School Board adopted Superintendent Garza's proposed FY 2017 operating budget (the Advertised Budget). A budget is fundamentally a statement of values, and the Advertised Budget reflects this community's unwavering support for excellent public schools. It includes critical pay increases for our teachers, begins to address class sizes and, most importantly, proposes no cuts to the great programs that we expect in FCPS.


That's the good news - that we have a hopeful, worthy budget to present to the community. The bad news is that we have no guarantee that it will be fully funded. Because Virginia law does not allow school boards to raise revenue directly, we must advocate for the Advertised Budget with our state and county funders.


After years of revenues not meeting needs, FCPS is now spending $1,000 less per student, in real dollars, than in 2009. Our teacher pay scale has lost so much ground in the region that mid-career teachers can now earn $15,000 more per year right next door in Arlington. We began this school year with an historic 200 vacant classroom teacher positions. The School Board has been forced to raise class sizes three times in nine years and central office staff is so lean that school-based educators are not receiving the timely support they need. Clearly, it is time to stop cutting and start reinvesting, and the Advertised Budget does that.


Dr. Garza's Budget Advisory Committee spent many hours over several weeks last summer and fall developing a list of potential program cuts and new fees. Those cuts and fees are NOT in the Advertised Budget because they would fundamentally change the quality and character of FCPS. I did not leave the classroom to serve on the School Board so that I could preside over the dismantling of this world class school system. But that nasty basket of potential cuts is where the School Board will have to turn if funding does not match needs yet again this year.


The Virginia General Assembly is in session now, considering a proposal from Governor McAuliffe that would make some new investments in state K-12 funding. But even if the Governor's proposal survives, very little of that new funding would make its way to FCPS. While most of our Fairfax County delegation in Richmond fights hard for our schools, the sad truth is Virginia has been underfunding K-12 for a decade. Virginia now ranks eighth nationally in household income, yet ranks 38th in spending on public schools. That is not only shameful, it is grossly unfair to local taxpayers (homeowners) who increasingly must make up the difference.


The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors provides roughly 70% of the FCPS operating budget, in the form of an annual transfer. In recent years, the county transfer has not kept pace with needs. The recession of 2008-09, followed by sequestration and a sluggish housing market, have made it difficult to keep up with the growing enrollment and fixed costs of the school system. Continued under-investment in FCPS, however, is itself dangerous to the delicate economic recovery of our local economy. Reinvesting in excellent schools is, in fact, an essential part of that recovery.


Beyond FY 2017, we must begin to fix the structural challenges to school funding. We must diversify our revenue base, beginning with a county meals tax, and work with partners around the Commonwealth to develop a more robust response to the General Assembly's intransigence. But for the next weeks and months, our focus is on the FY 2017 Advertised Budget and the requested transfer from the Board of Supervisors. That transfer request is for an additional 6.7% above last year's transfer. Historically, going back before the recent recessionary years, the transfer increase has often been higher than that. Given the under-investment of the past eight years, and the resultant budget challenges facing FCPS, a 6.7% increase is not unreasonable.


It is critical that community members make their voices heard. I am so grateful to the many, many people who have been weighing in with emails, public testimony and attendance at rallies. The outpouring of community support for the schools is something I have never seen before in my 25 years in Fairfax County. It is already making a difference. Thanks especially to the grassroots organizers of #IAMFCPS, home-grown right here in the Hunter Mill District. If you would like to learn more about their advocacy efforts, go to their web site: iamfcps.org, or visit their Facebook page: https://m.facebook.com/IAMFCPS/?tsid=0.08200593222863972&source=typeahead


The FCPS web site also has great budget information and advocacy tools. VERY IMPORTANT upcoming dates to remember: On February 16, the County Executive will present his proposed budget to the Board of Supervisors and it's my understanding that the FCCPTA, FEA, #IAMFCPS and other groups will hold a rally at the Government Center that afternoon. On March 1, the Board of Supervisors will set the "advertised tax rate," at which time they can - and should - give themselves the flexibility to fully fund all the critical needs of the county, including FCPS.


Please keep in touch. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.


Pat Hynes