2006-02-02 FCPS claims of academic excellence are incomplete.

Testimony before the Fairfax County School Board Hearing on the Proposed FY2007 Budget

February 2, 2006
By Arthur G. Purves
President, Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance

Members of the Board and Dr. Dale:

Last April the school board representative from Sully District wrote to an FCTA board member that the proposed FY2006 budget increase was "a 2.0 percent increase over the current year’s budget estimate and is below the rate of inflation."

Now , a year later that alleged two percent or $50 million increase has become a 14 percent increase and the $50 million has become $254 million.

Can you be trusted?

This is an expensive school system. For decades your inflation-adjusted budget has been increasing nine times faster than enrollment. Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) staff has been increasing four times faster than enrollment. The Superintendent justifies this as the price of academic excellence and cites last year’s record-high SAT scores as evidence.

Why is it, however, that on page 39 of the 2006 Washington Area Boards of Education (WABE) Guide, FCPS is the only school district that does not report the percent of seniors taking the SAT (see below)? In 1997, 89 percent of FCPS seniors took the SATs. That had decreased to 79 percent in the 2005 WABE Guide. In the 2006 Guide, is FCPS trying to cover up an even greater decline in SAT participation?

FCPS claims to be the "Education Empire," the best in the nation. But is it the best in Virginia?

Schoolmatters.com, a school-rating website provided by Standard and Poors and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation identifies the top-performing school districts in each state. Their analysis considers both test scores and demographics and lists 16 top school districts in Virginia. Fairfax County is not one of them.

FCPS boasts that 89 percent of its graduates go on to post-secondary education. The school district, however, has no estimate of what percentage of its graduates earn four-year college degrees. The State Council for Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) reports that 68 percent of freshmen at four-year colleges will graduate within six years. SCHEV numbers suggest that 45 percent of freshmen at two-year colleges eventually earn four-year degrees.

Therefore it appears that while 90 percent of graduates go on to post-secondary education, under 60 percent of FCPS graduates will earn four-year college degrees. This analysis is posted on the FCTA website, www.fcta.org.

In conclusion, your claims of academic excellence are incomplete and do not justify the property tax hikes required to support your soaring budget.

Thank you.

Updated March 29, 2006

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