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Pay Freeze, Larger Classes Proposed in Budget

By Michael Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 5, 2009

Teachers' salaries would be frozen, many class sizes would rise to the maximum allowed and new fees would be imposed on students under a budget proposal released last night by Prince William County School Superintendent Steven L. Walts.

"Cuts must be made, and they will be painful to many," he said.

The $745 million proposal for fiscal 2010, which forecasts a $57 million cut in combined state and county aid, is a 7 percent reduction from $799 million in fiscal 2009. Schools officials have said they have never in memory had to deal with a year-to-year reduction in spending.

Prince William's school system, which is Virginia's second largest with more than 73,000 students, expects to add 1,400 students in the fall. County officials have warned of a looming $190 million county deficit for fiscal 2010, which begins July 1, and County Executive Craig S. Gerhart has asked departments and agencies to prepare budget proposals with cuts of 10, 20 and 33 percent.

In Walts's proposal, class sizes would increase by one student to the state maximum of 30 per elementary school classroom. Many middle and high school classes could grow to the maximum of 35 students.

Students would face fees to play sports, parking fees would double to $100 and driver's education fees would increase by $50 to $275. Schools would stop paying Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and PSAT fees, a policy adopted to encourage increased participation in advanced classes.

Staffing for English as a Second Language classes and those for gifted students would be reduced.

About 450 positions would be eliminated in the proposal, but Associate Superintendent David S. Cline said most of those reductions would be achieved through retirements and other attrition.

Walts's move to freeze staff salaries follows similar moves by superintendents in Fairfax and Loudoun counties. Loudoun will also increase student fees in the budget approved by its School Board last week.

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