Fairfax County Public Schools classrooms will get slightly more - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Fairfax County Public Schools classrooms will get slightly more crowded

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FALLS CHURCH, Va. -

The number of students per classroom in Fairfax County public schools would go up, slightly under next fiscal year's proposed budget. That's because some teachers' positions, as well as those of administrators and custodians, will be reduced.

At the same time, the superintendent of schools is asking the county government to increase spending by about $98 million.

Fairfax County has the largest school system in the region and it's still growing. Bailey's Elementary School is stuffed with 130 percent of its rated capacity for students. There are more than two dozen portable classrooms on the grounds of that elementary school.

That is part of the dilemma faced by Superintendent Karen Garza: the student population in Fairfax County will likely grow from its current number of 185,000 students to 188,000 students in one year. Superintendent Garza is proposing a $2.5 billion budget, with some layoffs, and also a request for an additional $98 million a year from the county government.

At a budget briefing, Garza cited rising costs for teachers' pensions and health care, as well as the growing enrollment as the reasons for needing more money from the county government.

"We're asking for [the county's help] in responding to those cost drivers that are outside of our control," explained Garza.

With the layoffs, elementary school classroom populations in Fairfax County would increase, on the average, by about half a student. High school class sizes would grow, on average, by one student.

Under Garza's proposed budget, teacher pay would go up, slightly, because, Dr. Garza says, pay for experienced teachers in Fairfax County is falling behind pay in surrounding districts.

At least one school board member strongly endorsed the request for more county money. Sandy Evans, who represents the Mason District on the school board, told us: "The pension requirements that we have, the health insurance requirements that we have, these are all costs that we simply have no control over."

Anti-tax activist Arthur Purves hopes the county government says "no" to the extra $98 million a year. Purves advocates freezing teacher pay and cutting teacher benefits: "They should go to high-deductible medical insurance, and they should be lobbying the state legislature to increase the retirement age. I think most private sector employees now realize they have to work until age 70."

The school board will now hold hearings on the proposed budget, and make its formal request to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in April.


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