Remarks To The Fairfax County School Board Regarding the FY2001 Budget
By Arthur G. Purves
President, Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance
January 24, 2000
Members of the Board:
My name is Arthur Purves, and I address you as president of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance.
In his budget presentation, the school superintendent praised the schools' high achievement, contribution to the county's prosperity, and accountability to the community. He then asked for $60 million more than the county can provide without a tax increase.
Regarding achievement, the average SAT score of Fairfax County Public Schools' seniors is only at the 65th percentile, a number so low that the administration does not publish it. Regarding the high percentage of graduates who attend college, only about half of them will graduate from college. The schools cited this statistic to justify the introduction of high school academies
Schools have not helped the Route 1 corridor, which desperately needs business investment. Businesses would rather move to the Dulles corridor, where the schools are better.
Regarding accountability, the Taxpayers Alliance was not included in the schools' focus groups held during the development of the budget. It seems that the schools would rather stifle debate than learn from it.
The budget overlooks important issues. Eight percent of current enrollment is in the self-contained special education program. However, thirty percent of new enrollment will be in that program. Why? Where is the explanation?
The superintendent says that school-based positions are up and non-school based positions are down. This is misleading. Since 1975 non-teaching positions have increased much faster than enrollment.
Regarding salaries, since 1975 school salaries have increased more than county salaries, until last year. Salary increases should be based on trends, not one-year changes. What has been the trend in federal salaries that the schools seek to match? The schools do not say.
The superintendent says that the standards of learning are standards of mediocrity because the state does not pay enough. Since 1975, per-student spending, adjusted for inflation, has increased 100 percent. If inflation is included, the increase has been 500 percent per student. Yet achievement has not improved. Fairfax County Public Schools has proven that higher spending does not produce higher achievement. The problem is not money. The problem is the administration's disdain for phonics, grammar, facts, rules, and drill. Without these, smaller classes, more computers, longer school days and year, and other new programs have not and will not raise achievement.
Schools can improve in quality while cutting spending. The supervisors should not raise taxes for schools, and the state would be better advised to use its surplus to build the Dulles Metro and cut taxes rather than to subsidize ineffective school programs.