2009-01-21 Equality between public and private-sector compensation would have prevented school budget deficit

Remarks to the Fairfax County School Board Regarding the FY2010 School Budget

January 21, 2009
By Arthur G. Purves
President, Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance

Dr. Dale and Members of the Board:

Good evening.

The Superintendent's FY2010 budget contemplates a $200-million cut that would increase class size by two students. However, the Superintendent does not acknowledge that since FY2000, school spending increased $429 million more than needed to keep up with enrollment and inflation. At his budget press briefing, we asked the Superintendent how much of that increase was spent on fringe benefits. He did not know.

More than half of the $429 million was spent to give school employees higher raises ($110 million) and better benefits ($151 million) than taxpayers get.

Between FY2000 and FY2007, residential real estate taxes increased ten percent per year. Raises for school employees were over five percent per year. According to the County Executive, homeowner incomes were increasing two percent per year.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nationally 79 percent of state and county workers but only 20 percent of private workers have pensions. Seventy-two percent of state and county workers but only 52 percent of private workers have employer-provided health insurance.

Does FCPS academic excellence merit this generous compensation?

Last year, 68 percent of FCPS seniors planned to attend four-year colleges. We asked the Superintendent what percentage would graduate from college. He did not know. A good estimate is that while 68 percent will start at a four-year college, only 50 percent will graduate. The top three FCPS high schools for probability of college graduation are Thomas Jefferson (100%), Langley (83%), and Woodson (67%). College graduation probabilities for all FCPS high schools are posted on the Fairfax County Taxpayer Alliance's homepage, www.fcta.org.

We asked the Superintendent what percentage of Learning Disabled students is successfully remediated. He does not know. However, a 2003 school-funded study of Special Education Services by the Gibson Consulting Group found that on Virginia Standards-of-Learning tests, failure rates at special-education-centers were worse than the county average, even though there were only three students per instructor.

Control costs. Cap pensions and switch to 401Ks, as the private sector is doing.

According to a 1/12/09 Robert J. Samuelson column in the Washington Post ("Obama's Health-Care Headache"), healthcare inflation occurs primarily because government and employer-provided health insurance have dramatically reduced the consumer's out-of-pocket costs. Hence demand and prices have soared. The federal government borrows from our children to pay the bill; businesses drop health insurance. Do what the private sector should do: restrict healthcare insurance to catastrophic coverage only.

If the schools had maintained equality between public and private compensation, you would have no deficit and no need to increase class size.

Thank you.

Updated March 17, 2009

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