Testimony at the Fairfax County School Board Budget Hearing
By Arthur G. Purves - President, Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance
January 24, 2011Dr. Dale and Members of the Board:
Good evening. My name is Arthur Purves. I address you as president of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance.
Recently a Taxpayer Alliance board member emailed the school board to express concerns about rising taxes. The reply, from an at-large school board member, stated that one reason for increased taxes is that FCPS has to pay next year $8.1 million to implement an unfunded mandate for online testing.
One would conclude from the school board email that unfunded mandates were the primary driver of higher school spending. That would be an incorrect conclusion. In his FY2012 budget proposal, the superintendent has proposed $99 million of spending increases.
Of that, $47 million is to give all school employees average raises of 4 percent, since they have gone without raises for two years. However, between 2001 and 2009, county and school raises exceeded DC area private sector raises by 300 percent (22% vs. 7.3%0) I doubt that many private-sector businesses will be giving 4 percent raises to all employees next year.
Another $33 million is for increased pension and health insurance costs, even though private-sector taxpayers are far less likely than county workers to have pensions and health insurance. When you include pensions and health insurance, school and county workers are far better compensated than the private sector. Are you and the neighboring school districts being fair to taxpayers when you raise taxes so that county employees can have better raises and benefits than the taxpayers who fund them?
Does student achievement justify higher taxes? We think not. According to the ACT college admissions test results for
Fairfax County Public Schools, last year only 44 percent of the students tested
were prepared for college. Also,
while FCPS made adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind Act,
remember that passing SOL tests requires only “D” level achievement.
While we oppose compensation increases, we heartily agree teachers are overworked. Lighten their load. Special Ed teachers have told us that they need to work 80 hours a week, but only 40 hours is spent teaching; the rest is for IEPs, which are federally mandated. Here’s a solution: as a school board you can declare all your schools to be charter schools, waive the unnecessary and burdensome mandates and let your teachers teach.
In summary, we believe that the school board is unfair to taxpayers, overstates academic achievement, and unnecessarily burdens its teachers.
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