While the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is
apparently holding the line on taxes this year, the
Fairfax County School Board is lobbying for higher
taxes, including a new county piggy-back income
tax. (See Mark Collins' article for more
Figure 1. Percent Growth in Fairfax County
Taxes and Spending, 1975-97
The last twenty years demonstrate that schools don't
need independent taxing authority; they need more
accountability and a better curriculum. Figure 1
shows that schools have already received
increased revenues resulting from higher taxes.
Over the last twenty years, while inflation increased
198%, Fairfax County per-capita taxes increased
381% and per-student spending increased 465%.
Schools are the major driver for higher taxes since
per-student spending increased more than taxes while
the county's non-school spending increased less than
This refutes claims made last year by School Board
Vice-Chairman, Mark H. Emery. Mr. Emery stated
in budget briefings that per-student spending had not
kept up with inflation. However, Mr. Emery used
figures starting in 1991. He ignored the previous 15
years during which school spending increased much
faster than both enrollment and inflation.
Figure 2 shows that if school spending had
increased at the same rate as enrollment and
inflation, this year's school budget would have
been $515 million less than it is. When forced to
admit this fact, school officials suggest that most of
the $515 million was needed for Special Education
and English As a Second Language (ESL) programs.
(ESL is the program to teach English to immigrant
children.) Special Education and ESL account for
only 20% of the increase. The biggest portion of the
increase went to higher salaries and benefits (36%) for
school employees. About $75 million of the increase
was for administration, including clerical help, and for
more guidance counselors, social workers, and school
The school administration states that an additional
$500 million is needed over the next ten years to fund
school renovations and construction. Had school
spending increased no faster than enrollment and
inflation, there would have been ample money for
building renovation and construction with the tax
increases already imposed upon the taxpayers.
Since 1978 the number of administrative and clerical personnel has increased
72%, six times faster than enrollment, which increased only 11%. The number
of guidance counselors, social workers, and psychologists has increased 124%,
or eleven times faster than enrollment.
Figure 2. The School Budget Has Increased Faster
Than Enrollment and Inflation . . .
What has the taxpayer gotten for the 465%
increase in per student spending? Fairfax
County School Superintendent, Dr. Robert R. Spillane,
frequently sites increasing SAT scores that are higher
than the national average as evidence that Fairfax
County Public Schools are an excellent school system.
While it is true that Fairfax County's average score has
increased 40 points since 1975, that is only a 7%
The county's average SAT score of 1096 is
only at the 65th percentile, which is much
less than what one would expect of an
excellent school system. To be at the 80th
percentile, the average score would have to increase
another 100 points.
Standardized test scores, which are available only since
1983, are flat. That SAT scores have increased while
standardized test scores have not suggests that the
improvement in SAT scores may be due to more
students taking SAT prep courses than to higher
classroom standards. In addition, there has been
no improvement in the minority student achievement
The number of Learning-Disabled students has
increased much faster than overall enrollment.
However, many students who are classified as
Learning Disabled would have succeeded in the
regular classroom had they received phonics-based
Despite the large increase in administration, guidance
counselors, social workers, and psychologists,
behavior is worse. Finally, not withstanding the large
increase in spending, buildings are overcrowded and
overdue for renovations.
The solution to these problems is not higher taxes.
It is more accountability and a better curriculum.
In February, 1995, the school board asked the school
administration to evaluate "all current instructional
programs and to determine
whether these programs are
effectively serving the purposes
for which they were intended."
The result was the 1995 and
1996 "Program Budgets" that
identify over sixty programs
but do not evaluate them.
The only academic graduation
requirement is the Virginia
Literacy Passport Test, which
most students pass in the sixth
grade. Dr. Spillane has stated
that school standards are "too
vague or too malleable to be
meaningful" ("Education Week", June 2, 1993). The
school administration's latest plan to raise standards,
"The Fairfax Framework for Student Success" states
on page 5 "The higher standards that the Framework
supports will not, by themselves, raise student
achievement, nor can the schools alone guarantee
student success." Of what use are higher standards if
they do not raise achievement?
Not only do school administrators believe that they
cannot raise achievement, it is no longer their goal. As
the principal of Oakton High School has stated, the
current goal is the"socialization" of students. So rather
than focus on phonics, vocabulary, grammar,
expository writing, algebra, and geography, schools
now focus on vague outcomes such as "Understanding
Self and Others", "Exploring Occupations", "Making
Decisions", and "Planning for Life." These are the
goals of the schools new
Studies program and are
listed in the schools' May,
There are two curricula that
would raise student
achievement. One is the
"Core Knowledge Sequence"
developed by University of
Virginia Professor E. D.
Hirsch and popularized in his
series "What Your
Kindergartner, 1st Grader,
. . . , 6th Grader Needs to Know." Dr. Hirsch's secret
is to have students study geography , American, and
world history every year in elementary school. Under
the current curriculum, elementary students get only
one year each of Virginia, American, and world
history, and essentially no geography. The school
board just voted to allow seven elementary schools
to pilot Core Knowledge. The other program was
developed 20 years ago at the University of Oregon.
Known as "Direct Instruction" its effectiveness in
teaching reading and arithmetic to all low achieving
students, including low income students, has been
extensively tested and verified in classroom testing.
Although it is commercially available from
SRA/McGraw Hill, Dr. Spillane and School Board
Chairman Chris Amundson oppose Direct
School's Proposed Student Information System Goes Overboard
The school system has decided to go ahead with purchase of a computer program and equipment for a new
Student Information System, referred to as the SIS, at a cost of 11 million dollars. This system will keep all
student information in a central computer system to improve efficiency, it is said. This purchase is only the first
of three steps planned to computerize the schools.
The computers and printers that the school system has right now are so old that repair parts aren't made any
longer. But the new system does much more than get new equipment. A new computer program to store all the
student information, which will cost 2.5 million dollars is being purchased. This program is planned to include
audio and video, which will require a lot more computer storage space, which means increased cost. The
question is, why is such information being put on computer? In addition, there are no school board policies to
control what information is stored, or how it is used. Parents who became concerned with this lack of oversight
were ignored by the majority of the school board.
Does this lack of oversight sound familiar? Just last year County Executive Leidinger was fired for not telling
the Board of Supervisors about the growth of a computer contract. Let's hope the school board wises up before
more of our tax money is wasted.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
New Virginia Education Standards Good for Students and Taxpayers
New state tests for students in several grades will be tried in some schools this year as part of Virginia's plan to
improve education and accountability. The tests will help determine how well our children meet Governor Allen's
Standards of Learning. Eventually, passing the tests in 11th grade will a requirement for graduation. Currently, a
6th grade literacy test is the only test required.
New State Standards of Accreditation for schools are also being proposed this year. These standards will for the
first time require schools to meet state academic requirements or lose accreditation. The current accreditation
requirements only cover such things as meeting fire codes.
Many states already require passing standard tests for graduation, and have accreditation standards for schools
based on academic performance.
Fairfax County Public School officials are not worried about meeting the new higher standards, since our schools
exceed existing state standards. Let's hope so, or we'll have big concerns regarding past tax increases!
Fairfax County Taxpayers Fooled Again . . .
In 1996 a majority of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted for a seven cent ($ .07) per $100
valuation increase in property taxes that was not needed. The approximately $58,000,000.00 (fifty-eight
million dollars) 1997 surplus of the County School Board and Board of Supervisors proves the point. The FY
1996 tax increase raised $49,000,000.00 (forty-nine million dollars) more than the FY 1996 actual budget needs.
That means that without any tax increase in 1996 Fairfax County would still have had approximately a
$9,000,000.00 (nine million dollars) surplus in 1997.
There are two possible reasons for this costly "mistake": The majority on the Board of Supervisors do not know
how to assess the needs of the county or they see Fairfax County tax payers as deep pockets for funding bigger
government. Either way, the taxpayers have been fooled again.
The additional fallout is that the majority of supervisors have lost interest in downsizing and streamlining our
bloated county government and are looking for ways to spend the surplus dollars. We call on these supervisors
to embrace fiscal responsibility and respect the public trust placed in them by the taxpayers. The upcoming
public hearings on the FY 1998 budget April 7th through the 9th at 7:30 p.m. at the County Government Center
will provide the opportunity to correct the excesses of the 1996 tax hike.
The following supervisors voted for the unnecessary tax increase: Chairman Kate Hanley, Sharon
Bulova, Gerry Hyland, Gerry Connolly, Penny Gross and Dana Kauffman. These supervisors opposed
the tax increase: Bob Dix, Elaine McConnell, Michael Frey and Stu Mendelsohn.
The Fairfax County School Board Seeks Taxing Authority And A County
Income Tax . . .
The Fairfax County School Board 1997 Legislative Program requests that the Virginia State Legislature grant
independent taxing authority to local school boards. It also asks the legislature to authorize additional taxes,
including a county income tax and increased county sales taxes, to provide more revenue for schools.
The FCTA vigorously opposes these new and onerous tax measures. Instead of seeking ever more tax
dollars to fund ineffective programs and a bloated bureaucracy, the Fairfax County School Board should balance
its budget by assessing program effectiveness, eliminating ineffective programs, and utilizing proven curricula.
The Virginia General Assembly did not consider these new tax measures in its 1997 session since this is an
election year. The Fairfax County School Board will likely renew its efforts to obtain independent taxing
authority and a county income tax next year, however, and the FCTA will stand ready to publicize and oppose
this potential new burden on taxpayers. The FCTA encourages you to contact your state representatives and
make your feelings known on this important issue.
Alliance Elects New Board at Annual Membership Meeting
At its October 15, 1996, annual membership meeting,
the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance elected new
leadership. The new Executive Board is: Arthur
Purves, President; Tom Pfister, First Vice-President;
John Page, Second Vice-President; Tom Beck,
Treasurer; and Perry Young, Secretary.
Elected as At-Large Directors were Roger McKinley,
Tom Beck, I. M. ("Smokey") Ryan, and Doug
Barylski. The Executive Board and At-Large directors
serve for two years.
At the meeting, Mr. Purves thanked outgoing
President, Dorothy Tella, for her four years of service
as F. C. T. A. president. Mrs. Tella has done
impeccable research, published fact-filled and
informative newsletters, and has spoken resolutely for
taxpayers at public hearings and in the press. She has
set a standard of excellence that will challenge future
boards for many years.
Don Lynch, whose column appears weekly in the
Fairfax Journal, was guest speaker at the meeting.
Citing the overwhelming opposition facing the
Taxpayers Alliance, Mr. Lynch reminded members of
Winston Churchill's advice to his alma mater during
World War II: Never give in.
Members also voted to amend Article XI, Section 1, of
the bylaws, as follows, by deleting "monthly": The
Board of Directors shall meet [monthly,] at the call of
the president, or of any member of the Board of
Directors with the agreement of any four or more other
members of the Board of Directors, who shall set the
date, time and place of such meetings.
Mr. Purves and his wife, Carol, have lived in Fairfax
County for 21 years. They are the parents of two
children, both of whom graduated from Fairfax County
Public Schools. Last year, Mr. Purves ran,
unsuccessfully, for the Hunter Mill District seat on the
Fairfax County School Board.
At its meeting on March 5, 1997, the board elected
Elizabeth Smith for a one-year term as District
Director for Dranesville and Bob Beck and Ludwig
Benner as At-Large Directors.
Tax his cow, tax his goat
Tax his pants, tax his coat,
Tax his crops, tax his work,
Tax his tie, tax his shirt,
Tax his chew, tax his smoke;
Teach him taxes are no joke.
Tax his oil, tax his gas,
Tax his notes, tax his cash;
Tax him good and let him know-
After taxes he has no dough.
If he hollers, tax him more
Tax him till he's good and sore.
Tax his coffin, tax his grave,
Tax the sod in which he lays.
Put these words upon his tomb:
"Taxes drove me to my doom."
And after he's gone he can't relax
They'll still be after inheritance tax!
This poem was provided by a constituent of
Rep. Sue Myrick, North Carolina Republican.
The following letter is from a retired Fairfax County teacher. The literature being referred to is
entitled "Do Fairfax County Public Schools Really Need Another Tax Increase?"
Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance
P.0. Box 356
Fairfax, VA 22030
I was pleased to find your literature re the County School Board request for a County income tax (11/22/96)
lying on a table in the new government building. Since I had to sit through an entire Board of Supervisors'
meeting, I realized for the umpteenth time how bureaucracy stands in the way of progress.
For several years I edited a publication called On the Level for FCFT, the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers.
The Federation is wholeheartedly in concurrence with you on virtually every point made in the flyer. If this
County could be persuaded to demand administrative accountability, to examine each new educational whim and
whimsy designed to make administration look good, countless taxpayer dollars could be reapportioned to
actually bring about improved curriculum and test scores.
As a high school teacher in Fairfax County I've observed, for twenty-six years, the self-seeking,
self-perpetuating, self-aggrandizing efforts by the School Board to manipulate and to maintain control. Dr.
Spillane has even managed to doctor the budget so as to hide countless adrninistrative jobs under the guise of
"teacher." Have you checked out the numbers of non-school-based teaching personnel there are? Lauded budget
cuts are more often buried in the ranks of custodial or secretarial staff. Critical positions are likely to be staffed
by aides, many of whom are dedicated professionals willing to work at near-poverty levels because of the young
people in their charge.
The Fairfax County Public Schools is rife with situations like this and yet we have had difficulty disseminating the
information. Teachers are timid (translated: afraid) to speak out. I personally was threatened with reprisal more
than once, especially concerning cover-ups re performance evaluation, block scheduling, faculty advisory
committees, disciplinary procedures, and many others.
I was lucky to "graduate" with the Class of 1996 and retire. It offers me not only the opportunity for relaxation
and creativity, but to be able to openly speak my mind without fear of reprisal. I agree with you. Our schools
don't need increased taxes or shifts in the tax base. They need sensible, and reasonable evaluation and the
application of a giant, well-sharpened pin to the bloated bureaucracy which is crippling the school system.
Here's my check!
Cynthia E. Rufty
Mason Neck, VA
January 15, 1997
P.S.; If you have any more of the blue flyers explaining this, could you let me have a dozen or so? I assure you,
I'll distribute them where they can help. Many thanks.