Fairfax budget hearings heat up as schools ask for more funding

Fairfax school board chair Ilryong Moon forcefully urged the county’s supervisors to send additional local tax dollars to classrooms, declaring that the school system is “at a tipping point,” and without sufficient funding risks a decline in quality.

Moon (At Large) was among a group of speakers who attended a hearing before the supervisors, who must approve the schools annual budget. The supervisors will hold hearings Wednesday and Thursday before the budget mark-up begins later this month.

This year, the schools have requested a 5.7 percent increase in the amount of local dollars going to Fairfax classrooms. Since last year, the supervisors have advised the school board to expect a 2 percent increase in the county transfer, which makes up 70 percent of the schools’ $2.5 billion budget.

“It’s easy to say that education is a top priority which I have repeatedly heard from you,” said Moon. “But where the rubber meets the road is the financial commitment you are willing to provide to our students and teachers.”

During the last five years, the county transfer to the schools has increased annually by an of average of 1.1 percent. Moon said that the schools’ request this year, equal to about $98 million, is needed in order to maintain the high quality of education in Fairfax.

“We have reached a tipping point where the underfunding of our schools at both the county and state levels for the past several years has led us to where we now face a distressing reality — one on that suggests there is very real and troubling evidence that our great school system is beginning to show signs of decline,” Moon said.

Moon gave a similar speech last year to the supervisors when the schools requested a 5.5 percent increase in the county transfer, equal to about $92 million. That year, the school board received a 2 percent increase in local funds from the supervisors.

After Moon spoke, residents advocated for more funding for the schools while others asked that the supervisors keep the taxes low in order to prevent homeowners from leaving the county.

Precious Crabtree, an elementary school art teacher, said that she was tired of asking the supervisors for funding for the schools.

“It is demoralizing to stand before you year after year to ask you to do the right thing for Fairfax school employees,” said Crabtree.“It is such a tired game. Your inability to understand the school system’s needs are obvious.”

To prove his point, Steven Greenberg, president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, gave a more dramatic presentation to the supervisors. He unfurled a black cape, donned a Darth Vader mask and played a recording of the “Star Wars’s” Imperial March.

“All this debate about the budget brings out the dark side in all of us,” Greenberg said.

He noted, however, that the schools needed more funding.

T. Rees Shapiro is an education reporter.
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