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Purves' Questions Forbidden at FCPS Budget Briefing

Purves' Questions Forbidden at FCPS Budget Briefing

January 7, 2016

The Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Office of Communications and Community Relations on Wednesday advised Arthur Purves, president of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance, that Mr. Purves would not be allowed to ask questions at the school superintendent's budget press briefing on Thursday, January 7. When Mr. Purves first tried to attend the superintendent's annual budget press briefing in January, 2000, the superintendent at that time had Mr. Purves arrested, handcuffed, and made to sit in a police station until the briefing was over. However, since then and for the past 15 years, Mr. Purves has been allowed to attend the annual January press briefing and ask questions -- until now. At first the Office of Communications and Community Relations told Mr. Purves that he could not attend Thursday. They then told him that he could attend but not ask questions. Only credentialed members of the press were allowed to ask questions. Interestingly, Dr. Garza took no questions in front of the many cameras that were there. She met with reporters one at a time, with no cameras.

Here are Mr. Purves' questions:

  1. According to 2015 ACT college admissions test results for FCPS, 59% of the 4882 FCPS students tested were prepared for college. Does the superintendent agree with this number and does she regard it as indicative an excellent school system?

  2. According to 2015 ACT college admissions test results, the percent of FCPS students prepared for college varies by high school, from 98% at Thomas Jefferson to 20% for Mt. Vernon High School. Why does the percent of students prepared for college vary so much from school to school?

  3. According to the ACT results, while 65% of white students are prepared for college, only 36% of Hispanic and 24% of African-American students are prepared for college. At an Oct. 21 candidates' forum the incumbent FCPS Mason District school board member stated that FCPS does not know how to close the minority student achievement gap. Is the Mason school board member correct?

  4. Last April the superintendent stated that since 2008 FCPS has cut nearly a half-billion dollars from its budget. However, according to FCPS budget documents, since 2008 the School Operating Fund has increased over $400M (from $2,144M to $2,571M). How does the superintendent reconcile these numbers?

  5. Last April the superintendent stated that since 2008 FCPS has cut 2,175 positions from its budget. However, according to FCPS budget documents, since 2008 School Operating Fund staffing increased by 1,183 positions (from 22,261 to 23,444). How does the superintendent reconcile these numbers?

  6. Last April the superintendent referred to "years of chronic underfunding" and "significant enrollment growth". However between 2000 and 2016 the School Operating Fund increased 100% (from $1,272M to $2,552M), or nearly five times faster than enrollment, which increased 22% (from 155K to 189K students). See the graph. The inflation-adjusted budget also increased faster than enrollment. Is this chronic underfunding?

  7. What percentage of Learning Disabled students is successfully remediated? (This question pertains only to LD students and not to all Special Education students.)

  8. Last year, how many of the best teachers left FCPS due to inadequate compensation? How many went to Arlington County Public Schools?

  9. Would the superintendent consider bonuses or merit pay to retain the best teachers?

  10. Between 2000 and 2016, FCPS spending for health and pension benefits increased by $385M (from $161M to $546M), or $250M more than needed to keep up with enrollment and inflation. Why should taxpayers, who are lucky if they can retire at 67, have to pay higher taxes so school employees can retire at 55?

Note: For more information, contact Arthur Purves at purves@fcta.org.


Here is the statement from Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Karen K. Garza following the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors passage of the Fairfax County Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget on April 28, 2015:

"Once again, we find that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has failed to fully fund Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). This is extremely disheartening -- we entered this budget year making a good faith effort to work collaboratively with the Board of Supervisors. We worked for nearly a year with the County Executive and the Board of Supervisors to develop a reasonable budget that met only the very minimal needs of FCPS, and in the end they did not deliver.

"Supervisors are sending a clear message that they are unconcerned about the increasing challenges of our students, our teachers, and our schools. The supervisors refused to fully fund our budget for the 2015-16 school year (FY 2016), when faced with a nominal $7.6 million deficit. We have grave concerns as to what will happen in the 2016-17 (FY 2017) school year when we face a devastating shortfall of more than $100 million.

"The entire Fairfax County community has a critical decision to make: either we invest the necessary funds in our students and schools, or we will have to work together to decide what to cut -- and we cannot cut our way to excellence.

"Due to years of chronic underfunding coupled with a decade of significant enrollment growth and increasing student needs, we will not be able to sustain the current quality nor the full range of academic programming we currently offer our students. We have sought to protect the classroom to date, but with the scale of the FY 2017 shortfall, we will have to take a serious look at the programs that we must cut starting in the 2016-17 school year. These cuts will likely affect all current academic programming including limiting elective choices, reducing career and technical programs, impacting advanced offerings, and again raising class sizes at all levels. We must make these difficult choices by December 2015 because students begin their course selections in January 2016.

"Since 2008, we have cut 2,175 positions and nearly a half-billion dollars from our budget affecting every school and department. We have fallen so far behind in teacher salaries that we are no longer competitive and are losing talented staff to neighboring school districts. Our teachers are the reason FCPS students excel and achieve. Losing our most experienced teachers will have a significant effect on student performance and will ultimately affect the reputation of FCPS.

"Fairfax County public schools are frequently cited as one of the main reasons that businesses choose to relocate to the county, and Fairfax has some of the highest property values in the country, but without excellent schools as a foundation -- corporate investment in Fairfax and property values will decline.

"In the education of our children, every year matters; we cannot hope to make up deficits in their education in their later years. It is critical we take action now.

"I hope our community will join me to #saveFCPS."