Superintendent Garza Proposes Higher Salaries, No Cuts in FY 2017

After nine years of consecutive cuts, Garza discusses a plan to stop cuts on the FCPS budget with the help of the state and citizens of Fairfax County.

Garza+addresses+the+FY+2017+budget+in+detail+at+this+year%27s+press+conference.+

Staff photo

Garza addresses the FY 2017 budget in detail at this year's press conference.

Fairfax County schools superintendent Karen Garza unveiled the proposal for the much-discussed FY 2017 budget plan on Thursday accompanied by guest speakers, FCPS principals and school board members. West Potomac was chosen to host this year’s budget press conference and had the honor of welcoming Garza and members of the local press to the school library and media center.

The proposed FY 2017 budget amounts to $2.7 billion, with a plan in place to raise teacher salaries, reduce class size for elementary students, improve the school system’s bus fleet and to the relief of most, implement no further cuts to the budget in the upcoming fiscal year.  

Watch: An Explanation of the FCPS Budget

“I can no longer propose cuts because by doing so, the implication is that I believe the cuts are appropriate,” said Garza, “and they are simply not.”

With the budget cut by $65 million last year and $98 million in the year prior, FCPS risks losing the excellence it is known for nationwide. This in turn contributes to a decrease in appeal and property value of the county itself–a lose/lose situation for both the education system and the region as a whole.

“Any of these next rounds of cuts, if necessary, will change the face of our school system–the very school system that is considered the foundation of Fairfax County and the reason many families and businesses are here in this county or relocated,” the superintendent explained.

For programs such as athletics and fine arts, this proposal serves as protection from the much-debated threat of defunding in previous months–as long as the request for a 4.8 percent increase in funding from the state is met. With this, Garza acknowledged Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe for addressing the deficit and urges state legislators to approve the present budget plan and help fully fund FCPS.

Emphasis was also put on the initiative to keep the school system’s competitive edge as one of the best and highly ranked counties in the nation. By proposing a 3.5 percent increase and $40 million investment in teacher salary scales to match those of counties in neighboring jurisdictions such as Loudoun and Arlington, Garza hoped to send a clear message to teachers that they are vital part of keeping Fairfax’s reputation of excellence and hopes to convince them to stay and work in the county.

Principal Alexander Case also attributed the appeal in Fairfax County to its school district in his opening remarks, stating that his FCPS education began when his family moved to the area “on the promise of the local school system.”

With around 200 vacancies for teaching positions starting this school year, that promise is in danger– a number never before seen in Fairfax County.

With the help of additional speakers such as FCPS 2015 Teacher of the Year Kimberly Scott, School Board Chair Pat Hynes and George C. Marshall High senior Samee Ahmad, Fairfax County Public Schools rallied around more funding in FY 2017 by citing both anecdotal and statistical points.

In her concluding remarks, Garza stated that the plans for the budget are the first steps in several multi-year investments, including $2 million going to improving buses and $10 million going to reducing elementary level class sizes, facilitating and tailoring the learning process that benefit both teacher and student.

“A quality education is not a luxury,” finished Garza, “it’s an absolute necessity.”