School Budget Discussions Scheduled to Start

About 165,000 students are enrolled in Fairfax County public schools.
About 165,000 students are enrolled in Fairfax County public schools. (By Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)
By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Fairfax County School Board is beginning discussion of a proposed budget that would expand full-day kindergarten, increase the starting salary for beginning teachers and add a maintenance program to help keep aging buildings in better shape.

Superintendent Jack D. Dale last week recommended the $2.1 billion budget, the first time a spending plan proposed by a Fairfax schools chief has topped $2 billion. His proposal marked the start of weeks of debate over how much should be spent to educate the district's approximately 165,000 students.

The first public discussion of Dale's spending plan will be at 10 a.m. Monday at a School Board work session at the Burkholder Center, 10700 Page Ave., Fairfax.

Dale said he added few new programs and tried to keep school spending in check. He noted that increasing costs of employee benefits and salaries, plus rising fuel and utility costs, account for some of the largest jumps in spending. For example, the schools will pay $30.7 million more than last year for retirement benefits.

The budget also focuses on attracting and retaining high-quality teachers and supporting programs that target the district's growing population of children who are poor, enrolled in special education programs or learning English.

"We took a very strategic approach," Dale said. "It's not a time for new initiatives."

Items in Dale's plan include:

· $1.6 million to expand full-day kindergarten to seven additional elementary schools with large populations of children who are in poverty or are immigrant children learning English.

· $4.5 million more for summer school programs because enrollment has increased.

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