In Fairfax, teachers seek residents’ help to lobby county leaders for more school funding

A Fairfax teachers organization has started a campaign to sway the county’s Board of Supervisors, asking residents to implore the elected leaders to give the schools a $98 million increase in funding.

Under the banner “Fund Our Schools Now!” the advertisements sponsored by the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers placed in community newspapers ask residents to lobby the supervisors for more local education dollars. The ads list the contact information for the 10 supervisors and says to “tell them you care.”

New Fairfax schools superintendent Karen Garza has proposed a $2.5 billion budget that includes $96 million in cuts, including possible layoffs and class-size increases. But her budget also asks for an extra $98 million from the county supervisors and includes $41 million in salary raises for most teachers.

Garza’s request is about 5.7 percent higher that what the supervisors approved last year.

The supervisors have repeatedly advised the school board to expect a more modest 2 percent increase. Garza said at a recent meeting that anything less than a 5.7 percent increase will be a “travesty.”

Steven Greenburg, president of FCFT, which has 4,0000 members who are schools employees, agreed with Garza’s sentiments.

“She is an education expert; they are a bunch of politicians,” Greenburg said. “She knows what the kids need.”

In an e-mail to Garza and the school board, Greenburg wrote that teachers were “disgusted” by annual showdown with the supervisors.

“We think you have been overly ‘kind’ in your approach to the county supervisors,” Greenburg wrote. “They can blame sequestration, or the recession, or the feds or state . . .but they now need to point to their mirrors.”

Greenburg also placed blame on the school administration for being too soft during the budget negotiations.

“You have been advocating for our teachers and students from the beginning,” Greenburg wrote. “However, you are not making sufficient progress. We must step in.”

Greenburg said Garza has received positive reviews from teachers and school staff. School board members have frequently said that Garza, a transplant from Lubbock, Tex., has injected refreshing optimism and energy to the budget process.

Greenburg said that the supervisors are setting up Garza to fail and that without a 5.7 percent increase in school funding, the county leaders will be “leaving her out to dry.”

“To not even honor her first request?” Greenburg said “I think that it is irresponsible and its bad business.”

T. Rees Shapiro is an education reporter.
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