Letter: Garza Calls Community to Help #saveFCPS

Letter: Garza Calls Community to Help #saveFCPS

Superintendent says FCPS faces deficit of more than $100 million; FCPS excellence at risk.

Statement from Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Karen K. Garza following the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors passage of the Fairfax County Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget:

Once again, we find that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has failed to fully fund Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). This is extremely disheartening — we entered this budget year making a good faith effort to work collaboratively with the Board of Supervisors. We worked for nearly a year with the County Executive and the Board of Supervisors to develop a reasonable budget that met only the very minimal needs of FCPS, and in the end they did not deliver.

Supervisors are sending a clear message that they are unconcerned about the increasing challenges of our students, our teachers, and our schools. The supervisors refused to fully fund our budget for the 2015-16 school year (FY 2016), when faced with a nominal $7.6 million deficit. We have grave concerns as to what will happen in the 2016-17 (FY 2017) school year when we face a devastating shortfall of more than $100 million.

The entire Fairfax County community has a critical decision to make: either we invest the necessary funds in our students and schools, or we will have to work together to decide what to cut — and we cannot cut our way to excellence.

Due to years of chronic underfunding coupled with a decade of significant enrollment growth and increasing student needs, we will not be able to sustain the current quality nor the full range of academic programming we currently offer our students. We have sought to protect the classroom to date, but with the scale of the FY 2017 shortfall, we will have to take a serious look at the programs that we must cut starting in the 2016-17 school year. These cuts will likely affect all current academic programming including limiting elective choices, reducing career and technical programs, impacting advanced offerings, and again raising class sizes at all levels. We must make these difficult choices by December 2015 because students begin their course selections in January 2016.

Since 2008, we have cut 2,175 positions and nearly a half-billion dollars from our budget affecting every school and department. We have fallen so far behind in teacher salaries that we are no longer competitive and are losing talented staff to neighboring school districts. Our teachers are the reason FCPS students excel and achieve. Losing our most experienced teachers will have a significant effect on student performance and will ultimately affect the reputation of FCPS.

Fairfax County public schools are frequently cited as one of the main reasons that businesses choose to relocate to the county, and Fairfax has some of the highest property values in the country, but without excellent schools as a foundation — corporate investment in Fairfax and property values will decline.

In the education of our children, every year matters; we cannot hope to make up deficits in their education in their later years. It is critical we take action now.

I hope our community will join me to #saveFCPS.