Cuts to Lower Class Sizes?

Cuts to Lower Class Sizes?

When the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved its budget in April, it left a gap of roughly $3 million between what the county school system was seeking and the supervisors were willing to give.

School staff has thus far been able to close the gap in the proposed $1.6 billion budget with the assistance of a $800,000 third quarter transfer due the school system from the supervisors, a $200,000 increase in state aid, a $1.2 million rebate from the federal E-Rate program and a $69,890 Carl D. Perkins grant.

So while the proposed budget offers no new programs, unlike last year, there has been very little talk of cuts.

Until now. School Board member Kathy Smith (Sully) on Thursday, May 8, requested Schools Superintendent Daniel Domenech present cuts which could allow for smaller class size. Domenech will respond at the School Board's final budget work session, May 15, before the expected budget adoption May 22.

This comes four days after the scheduled public hearings, which drew 39 speakers Monday night, May 12.

The request, while receiving support from a majority of the board, did not sit well with everyone, primarily because of the timing. School Board member Tessie Wilson (Braddock) said that any proposal to reduce class size would require making budget cuts the public had not been informed of prior to the public hearings. She also questioned why the request came forward just a week before the School Board is scheduled to approve the financial document, even though the proposed budget was released in January.

The hot topics of the night included restoring a step for support employees that was frozen in 1991; approving permanent assistant principals for the remaining 10 elementary schools who have yearly administrative interns instead; and additional resources for Brookfield Elementary in Chantilly, which at one time was proposed to become a Success by 8 and then a Project Excel school only to have the funding cut both times. Below are some excerpts from the testimony presented.

Denise Marcone

Brookfield Elementary, Parent

Regarding funding for full-day kindergarten and reading recovery a the school

"I would like you to put yourselves in the position of these 5-year-olds, especially the ESL children. Imagine you are employed at a job in a foreign country. You do not know the language or the customs. Your job is overwhelming and you are expected to complete many projects each day. Your boss has a quota that you must meet. And you are expected to get the job done in three hours each day. I don't think many of us could do that so how can we expect more from a 5-year-old? Please fund full-day K and reading recovery at Brookfield."

Steven Eddy

Fairfax County School Board Employee Association, president

Regarding the support employees

"It is not equitable to pay some employees for snow days, while not providing the same consideration for your food service employees, who had prepared to work those days as scheduled. The FCSBEA asks that you pay them for the snow days and not risk jeopardizing the respected reputation earned and enjoyed by Food and Nutrition Services as the most profitable and efficient enterprise in the FCPS organization."

Barbara Allen

Fairfax Education Association, president

Regarding class size

"In the past two months, your budget figures have stabilized and news from the state has been better than expected. Risking redundancy, I urge you to re-examine your budget proposals, looking closely to see what you can do to reduce class size. While providing the best staff available is job one to an excellent school, a reasonable class size is the second most important thing you can provide."

Robert Weamer

Fairfax Education Association, vice president; Groveton Elementary School teacher

Regarding support employees

"As a teacher who recognizes the value of our support staff to our mission, I want to ask you as a teacher to treat this support staff fairly. These folks work very hard alongside teachers to provide the very best educational experience possible. We need them and we rely on them. Please do the honorable thing and restore the step increase they lost in 1991."

Judy Johnson

Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, president

Regarding class size

"We want more than a token reduction in class size. We want you to calculate how much you took out of the funds to support class size in the past two years and to put at least that much back in."

Kathy Woodley

West Springfield, principal

Regarding elementary school assistant principals

"I want to address two specific needs that impact my children directly and these are security and instruction. The children in my school deserve to have an assistant principal who can be part of a strong administrative team, keeping them safe and providing instructional support to their teachers."

Sally DeBarr

Lemon Road Elementary School, teacher

Regarding elementary school assistant principals

"I suppose the quintessential demonstration of the deficiency of the intern program came in our school on Sept. 11, 2001. Our principal was on family sick leave in Philadelphia. Her intern of three weeks was left in charge. This safety crisis was of such magnitude that it required Dr. Ruth Hooker, principal of Kent Gardens Elementary, to come to our school to work with distraught parents and help guide us through a harrowing experience. She was able to do so because she was able to leave her school in the hands of her assistant principal."

Denise Chase

Fairfax Association of Elementary School Principals, president

Regarding elementary school assistant principals

"My colleagues and I support an assistant principal in every elementary school. Principals at the middle- and high-school levels have expressed their support as well. We who have assistant principals understand the complexity of the job and value the shared leadership in a school system that demands excellence."