Dissecting superintendent Michelle Reid’s FCPS FY2024 budget


Courtesy of FCPS

Superintendent Michelle Reid presents FCPS’s FY2024 Draft Budget to the school board

Lucas Ribeiro, Team Leader

Two weeks ago, superintendent Michelle Reid introduced a draft of Fairfax County Public Schools’s (FCPS) FY2024 budget. Among other changes, the budget brings pay increases for Jefferson faculty, extends counselor contracts, cuts to Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding and more.

Staffing and Pay

A major part of the budget revolves around pay increases for FCPS employees. Most notably, all FCPS salaries will increase by 3% to help offset inflation.

“The market scale adjustment of 3% is pretty phenomenal. [It] would impact a great majority of the teachers and staff at TJ. This is very helpful in helping salary increases to semi-keep pace with cost of living increases,” associate principal Sara Genetin-Pillawa said.

A second important pay-related change is a step increase for eligible employees, which would benefit Jefferson’s veteran teachers especially.

“There are times when people will essentially work in their position long enough that they reach the top of their salary lane,” Genetin-Pillawa said. “They’re no longer eligible for increases unless there is that overall percentage cost of living increase.  What that does is it adds another step. It’s the kind of increase that sometimes they maybe haven’t seen for a few years.”

The new budget also includes a retention bonus of 1% for all current employees who continue with FCPS.

“Employees are eligible for the bonus if employed by FCPS at any point during this year, fiscal year 2023 and remain employed within FCPS 2024,” Genetin-Pillawa said. “This would be in addition to [the other pay increases].” 

This policy will also help address the ongoing teacher shortage.

“We’ve had a hard time hiring. High need areas include a lot of our upper level math classes and physics, types of courses that require very specific certification are hard to fill,” Genetin-Pillawa said. “This is really nice because it rewards those who we’ve already hired and brought into TJ and it supports the ongoing hiring process.”

Expansion of Services

Beyond pay increases, FCPS is also providing new benefits to students, including extending counselor contracts to return to work earlier in the summer. This should lead to a smoother transition into future school years. 

“It’s about a three week extension. For [Jefferson], that gives our counselors more time in the summer to put a lot of extra eyes and detail on student schedules,” Genetin-Pillawa said.  “Our counselors come back around Aug. 11 and have to go right to work fixing conflicts. This would give counselors an opportunity to really go through and find errors before students have schedules in their hands.”

The extension in counselor contracts will also allow time for counselors to better connect with incoming students.

“It also builds in some time for counselors to get a head start on the ever important college recommendation letters, which then gives them more time and freedom and flexibility to get to know freshmen and reconnect with upperclassmen,” Genetin-Pillawa said. “This is an extreme value add for [Jefferson] specifically, because we’ve got all those new freshmen coming into [Jefferson], and counselors are oftentimes the very first staff member they get to know.” 

The new budget also includes funding for position changes based on enrollment needs, which will help Jefferson better manage as it grows from 2,000 to 2,200 students in the next two years. 

“Until we hit about 2200 students, we will continue to have an increase in staff positions,” Genetin-Pillawa said. “Where you’re going to see the growth next year will be the classes that our current sophomores take as juniors. We’re going to see more physics teachers coming on board, and usually there’s going to be an additional social studies and English teacher.” 

Another expansion provisioned in the budget is funding for middle school sports, specifically track and cross country. While seemingly irrelevant for Jefferson, it could bring positive long-term changes to Jefferson’s athletic programs, as incoming students will be more prepared. 

“If you think about track in terms of its conditioning, it impacts all sports.” Genetin-Pillawa said. “We could be bringing in some stronger athletes if our middle schoolers are participating in middle school sports prior to coming to Jefferson.” 

ESSER Grant Funding

Another change in the new budget is the elimination of ESSER funds, federal funds that have supported some of Jefferson’s programs since 2020. The federal funds were set to expire in 2023, and that change has been reflected in FCPS’ 2024 budget. 

“We currently have positions that are being either funded in full or funded in part by the ESSER grant,” Genetin-Pillawa said. “What that looks like for us might be a shift in personnel in terms of what that person is currently doing, they may take on another position at Jefferson, or we could potentially lose employees that are compensated under the ESSER grant right now.”

Specifically, the loss of ESSER grant funding will have the greatest impact on programs meant to recover COVID-19 learning loss, as well as wellness programs.

“[The ESSER grant] has been used at FCPS to recover learning loss. [It’s funded] initiatives that support students who may have unfinished learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with an emphasis on the wellness side as well,” Genetin-Pillawa said. “You see funds that are allocated toward academics and wellness, including staffing, some instructional supplies, [and] professional development and resources for staff.” 

The loss of ESSER grant funding might also lead to fewer grants for 8th period activities. 

 “[ESSER grant funding also] supports our after school programming. At [Jefferson], a lot of that impacts our clubs and activities that take place during eighth period,” Genetin-Pillawa said. “Club and activity sponsors were given the opportunity to sort of write a wish list that they would like to see purchases made through that as your grant that applies to the after school funding, and we were able to award all of the proposed or allocated budget for those club expenses.” 

However, some of the holes left by the removal of ESSER grant funding have been filled by other programs, like a $6 million provision to help close the achievement gap, which will pick up some of the wellness and learning loss mitigation programs previously funded by ESSER. It is still unclear what programs will remain and which will be eliminated.

“We’re fortunate at TJ, because we have the Partnership Fund, and we do have a lot of resources available to us through Governor’s School funding as well,” Genetin-Pillawa said. 

Overall, Genetin-Pillawa believes the budget aligns with county goals that will result in a successful 2023-24 school year. 

“The budget is aligned to our strategic plan and [its] four goals:[to be] resource stewards, [have a] premier workforce, [and promote] sharing culture and student success,”  Genetin-Pillawa said.