Community reacts to newly proposed budget plan

On Jan. 9, Superintendent Karen Garza presented the Fiscal Year 2015 Proposed Budget to the FCPS School Board. Photo courtesy of

Sandy Cho, News Editor

After holding nearly 100 community meetings to gain insight on the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) finances, on Jan. 9, Superintendent Karen Garza presented the Fiscal Year 2015 Proposed Budget to the FCPS School Board, which is the first step in the process of approving the plan.

The budget of $2.5 billion, an increase of 2.4 percent or $59.4 million, addresses enrollment–a growth of 15,603 students–and demographic changes since the FY2010, increased rates for retirement and health insurance and step increases for eligible employees.

The plan calls for an addition of one student to every classroom, but a reduction of $96.5 million by eliminating around 731 staff positions, though 368 positions will be hired from projected enrollment growth.

“Cutting positions of any type is never a good thing, but the reality is, with the current budget crisis, some cuts were a forgone conclusion. I think Dr. Garza did a good job minimizing the impact this will have on the classroom, but this is just the first of many steps in the process,” Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History teacher Scott Campbell said. “What worries me is if the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors does not approve the increased contribution to FCPS, the cuts to teachers, staff and services will likely be larger and I expect they will not support the total increase of contribution that Dr. Garza is hoping for without a lot of public pressure.”

In addition, there is a proposal to cut $4.2 million of the funding for Advancement Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) exams, which could cause students to pay around $90 per test.

“It’s understandable if we would have to pay for exams, such as the SAT and ACT, but I don’t think it’s fair to make students pay for the AP tests for the courses they are already enrolled in at school,” sophomore Irene Song said. “I would be really troubled because I’m already spending money on extracurricular activities, like MUN and other conventions.”

At Jefferson, many students believe that the proposed plan will prove worthwhile, despite the hefty cuts.

“I think the cuts are detrimental because of the increased cost to the students, but if it is necessary to maintain our current level of education, then it has to be done,” senior Mason Chee said.

Others, on the other hand, are concerned with prioritizing efficiently rather than an increased budget.

“In general, more money doesn’t always solve as many problems as using money efficiently does,” junior Emily Rogers said. “But on the other hand, since staff, especially teachers, pours directly into the education of the students, which should be the top priority, the budget should aim to provide the best and take care of them properly.”

One of the main concerns of students is the fear of teachers and staff getting cut from Jefferson, though the Department of Human Resources is currently creating a plan to help those affected.

“It’s really unclear right now. The proposed budget eliminates 731 full time staff positions across the county, and one or more of those cuts may happen at TJ,” senior Will Ashe, the Student Representative of the School Board, said. “That being said, the budget cuts are designed to minimize the impact on the classroom learning experience, so while the administration may feel the budget strain, the students shouldn’t feel much of a change in the school experience.”

The School Board will hold public hearings on the budget on Jan. 27 and 28, and present the plan to the County Board of Supervisors on April 8.