Leaders Worry Fairfax Teacher Pay Won't Be Competitive

Superintendent Jack Dale's proposed $2.5 billion budget for FY 2014 doesn't adequately compensate educators compared to neighboring jurisdictions, leaders say.

As he presented his $2.5 billion budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2014 on Thursday, Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Dale threw up a "red flag" about the county's ability to pay teachers compared to other neighboring jurisdictions, which could hurt its ability to attract and retain educators, he said.

Dale's proposed budget is $62.7 million larger than last year's budget but relies heavily on a proposed 5.5 percent increase ($92.4 million) in funding from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors — for a total transfer of $1.77 billion — as a revenue source. 

Compensation — including an extra 293 positions to accommodate student growth and the costs of benefits and a state-mandated Virginia Retirement System shift — makes up about 88 percent of the system’s budget.

While it also calls for a 1 percent market scale adjustment for all teachers next year, which will cost the system about $18.9 million, the budget doesn’t provide step increases or other potential raises officials had considered in a fiscal forecast last fall.

Read more about Dale's proposed FY 2014 budget.

That doesn't help the system keep pace with its neighbors — a problem that will worsen in coming years, said Dale, who gave his last budget presentation Thursday ahead of his June retirement.

Fairfax will be able to remain in the middle of the pack for average starting teachers salaries at $45,161, for now, Dale said. With more experience, the county continues to drop.

Fairfax is fourth from the bottom on a list of what jurisdictionspay teachers with master's degrees, giving an average of $58,303 a year compared to leader Arlington's $71,982. It is second to last when comparing "maximum teacher salaries" for the area's most experienced teachers: Educators in Fairfax peak at $96,039, but can reach $109,078 in Arlington.

And Fairfax will likely fall lower on those lists, Dale said.

Fairfax County Federation of Teachers President Steve Greenburg said those differences will motivate teachers to drive "10 miles down the road" to work in a system in which they're paid better. 

"In the last 10 years we have gone from one of the most attractive school systems in the [Washington] area to at best middle of the road, and we're even moving toward the bottom," said Greenburg, whose group represents 4,265 teachers. "We are not getting the support form the state or the supervisors to even handle the growth increases let alone to compensate our employees appropriately," he said.

Dale said unless there is an increase in transfer from the county board of supervisors — which comes mostly from real estate and personal property taxes— or another outside source of revenue, the trend will continue. 

County Executive Ed Long said this fall he anticipated being able to give the school system an $84.2 million increase in transfer. 

Long said last month it wasn't clear if county employees would receive pay increases in FY 2014; he also said he was considering a two-year employee compensation system: in odd years, giving cost of living increases and in even years giving regular and performance-based pay bumps.

Not only does it make pay raises more manageable in the county's budget year to year, he said, but it's also more predictable in tough economic environments.

Dale said Long's proposal came out too late for him to consider it in his plan, or discuss it with the school board.

"If the people in Fairfax County — the businesses, the parents, the citizens — care about that and think that's important... they need to prioritize education, not just with their mouths but with their money," Greenburg said.

"I don’t really believe it's an issue of our school board not prioritizing," he added. "This is an issue of funding."

Kathy Smith (Sully) said she was concerned about some larger issues not adequately addressed in Dale's proposal, like employee compensation, that the board will have to find ways to solve.

"I don’t know if that can be done in this budget year," she said.

See also:

Enrollment Drives $2.5 B Fairfax Schools Budget

Kari Warren January 13, 2013 at 03:34 AM
Michael, if it doesn't work to furlough a teacher, surely Mr. Dale is smart enough to find another cost-cutting measure. Do you not think that the other county workers have been asked to do increased paperwork, administrative duties, etc. with the elimination of supporting positions and increased demands on public safety and human services? We are seeing record-breaking basic needs requests, with fewer resources available. I assure you that the other county workers are just as dedicated to meeting the challenges our children face as our teachers are. The only problem is that one side keeps getting increased funding, while the other side has to continually eliminate their services and personnel. FCPS already has 53% of our county's total budget. I think it is time that the budget is given serious review...again, Jack Dale has plenty of time to revise things. But, he is a master at manipulating the powers-that-be for continual increases. In the meantime, so many of our children do not have a home, do not have proper nutrition, and do not feel safe in their environments. How does that feed into a constructive learning environment? It doesn't.
Kari Warren January 13, 2013 at 04:06 AM
And, please understand that I completely value our teachers. My mother was a teacher, my sister is a teacher, and my daughter is in her third year of a five year program to be a teacher...coming out with her Master's Degree. I am in social services. I believe that if we get to some of the root causes of WHY our children aren't learning (for the stated reasons), I think our tax dollars will go a whole lot farther with more positive results for our children than simply handing more money over to FCPS, and continuing to deplete other county systems that not only don't have any meat on the bones, but the marrow is pretty much plucked out of it, too.
The Convict January 16, 2013 at 04:39 PM
Here's an easy way to reduce the FCPS budget: chase all of the illegals (along with their public service consuming anchor babies) out of the county.
Jennifer January 31, 2013 at 07:38 PM
Portions of that money that is handed over to FCPS go to provide free and reduced lunches to numerous students in the county. Teachers also use their own funds to purchase materials, food, and incentives for students in their classes whose families cannot afford these items. Schools also provide counseling services to these students and in some cases refer them or their families to other places to get the help they need. So all of that money that is "manipulated" away from other programs does not just go to teacher pay or textbooks.
DRM February 01, 2013 at 06:48 AM
Love it!


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