On Tuesday, members of the Fairfax County school board took part in a rally before county executive Ed Long presented the proposed budget for next year. Long’s budget calls for a 2 percent increase in local funds to the schools, significantly lower than new superintendent Karen Garza’s original 5.7 percent request.
During the rally, Garza addressed a crowd of parents, teachers and community members, many of whom were holding signs, including one that read: “Fund Our Schools.”
“This is a critical time for our school system,” Garza said. “I see this sign that says, ‘nickel and dimeing our schools,’ and we really are.”
Garza said that she found the county executive’s budget proposal “very disappointing.” She said that her budget called for $96 million in cuts, including eliminating 731 positions, while the county’s budget proposed hiring more non-schools employees next year.
“It goes without saying that if the revenue to the schools remains at 2 percent then there will be even deeper cuts on the horizon,” Garza said. “While they say the schools are the priority, in my mind it was not reflected in Ed Long’s budget.”
Garza said she hopes the supervisors will amend the proposed budget to include a higher tax rate.
“I think we have to remain optimistic and hopeful that our county leadership sees how desperate the schools are for additional revenue,” Garza said.
Richard and Maggie Ewell, who serve as co-presidents of Springfield’s Cardinal Forest Elementary PTA, said that education is a top priority for them as parents.
“We’re hoping the supervisors give the amount of the money that the schools requested,” Maggie Ewell said, noting that any less “will hurt the school system.”
David Edelman who serves as the Fairfax County Council of PTAs chair of the schools budget, said the schools face a crisis.
“The situation is at a tipping point,” Edelman said, noting that without sufficient funding from the supervisors, “we might see a decrease in the quality of our schools. The question is, what’s the new normal going to be?”
School board chairman Ilryong Moon (At Large) said Long’s proposal does not provide enough funding for the schools.
“We need to be fully funded,” Moon said. “The 2 percent will not cut it.”
School board member Ryan McElveen (At Large) described Long’s proposal succinctly as “shameful.”
Kimberly Adams, president of the Fairfax Education Association teachers’ group, said that her organization will lobby the supervisors to raise the tax rate to help cover schools costs.
“I don’t think they are making an investment in kids at this point,” Adams said. “It squarely rests now on anyone who expects the school system to be successful in the future to say our schools are worth the tax increase.”