Fairfax Schools Budget Would Cut Positions

Salaries would freeze, class sizes would increase

FAIRFAX, Va. -- Fairfax County's schools budget would eliminate hundreds of teaching, counseling and other positions, freeze salaries and increase class sizes.

Alexandria's schools budget would be down 1 percent from the current school year's spending level.

Both school superintendents must go before their school boards. The two school systems expect to operate with less funding and fewer employees, even as enrollment grows.

Fairfax County Superintendent Jack Dale heads the area's largest school system. He revealed a $2.2 billion annual budget on Thursday. Alexandria Superintendent Morton Sherman described a $197 million budget that has $1.8 million in reductions.

"We still have a mission to accomplish to empower all students to be high academic achievers," Dale said before a school board budget meeting Thursday night. "That will be a challenge with this budget."

Dale's plan is based on the assumption that the 169,000-student system will add more than 5,000 students, at an expense of about $40 million, and that state funding will be cut by about the same amount. The school system's revenue is expected to fall short by some $200 million of the level officials say they would need to maintain the same level of quality.

Dale is asking for a 3.5 percent increase in county education funding, or $57 million. Even with an increase in county funding, the plan would cut 250 staff positions and increase class sizes throughout the county.

It would also reduce overall spending about $10 million. Central office funding would be cut 10 percent, and positions for social workers, psychologists and counselors would also be cut.

Dale said layoffs for teachers are not expected, but might be necessary among some central office staff.

Dale proposed that teachers forgo a cost-of-living raise and also their annual seniority or "step" raises, which would save $37 million.

In Alexandria, Sherman, who took over the 11,000-student system this school year, called his first budget "a selfless budget" that will mean sacrifices from staff. About 79 full-time positions would be cut, including 61 custodial jobs that could be replaced by an outside contractor. "This is budget for kids and that's what a school budget must be -- for kids," he said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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