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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

ESF January 11, 2013 at 03:18 PM
The disparity in pay for accomplished teachers with a masters degree, and presumably class room experience is very troublesome for Fairfax. This should not be acceptable in this wealthy county that wants good education. County residents know the value of good schools with good teachers in terms of a better education for our youth. Good schools also pay off in property values. Properly compensating teachers should be a priority.
Kathy Keith January 11, 2013 at 04:20 PM
As a former teacher with a Masters plus, I think I can speak with a little authority on this subject. A Master's degree does not necessarily make for a better teacher. Surprisingly, neither do years of experience. Sometimes a new, fresh teacher makes up in enthusiasm what he/she may lack in experience. I have known teachers with PHD's who were just awful I the classroom. I do think teachers should get paid for their experience and education. It is an indicator of commitment to the profession. However, I do not think there should be a huge disparity. After all, these people are being paid for doing essentially the same job. Think about it: is it fair for little Susie's teacher to be making twice as much as Johnnie's--especially when they teach next door to each other and have the same duties? No. Reward teachers for education and experience--but use discretion in the amounts given.
Nexus - Lainge Bailey - Steward January 11, 2013 at 04:54 PM
Agree whole heartedly - Lainge Bailey Reading Specialest (Retired) FCPS and Nexus Coordinator, also Nexus Blog Steward here on Patch, Member MVCCA Education Committee and also the MVCCA Health and Human Services Committee. Nexus is a committee sponsored by the Joe and Fredona Gartlan Center for Community Mental Health to provide opportunities for community members, county and school folks to meet to discuss ways of improving together the mental health of the young - building better brainways for resiliency through prevention and intervention. Next Nexus conference will be Friday April 26 - at the Virginia Hills FCPS site. Keep in touch and leave a comment - type in Nexus on the Patch home page.
Kari Warren January 11, 2013 at 04:55 PM
If we REALLY want our children to learn, we can start by providing stable housing...and not having our children couch-jump from Aunt Mary's house one night to Uncle Joe's the next. We can also provide them with socio-emotional support and SAFETY (not just in school, but in their homes) to foster a better learning environment. This isn't provided by FCPS...it is provided by the "other side" of the county workers and non-profits that struggle with the fatless, meatless bones they are given year after year because the school system says they need more and more. I can guarantee that anyone entering the other side of this county system would love to have the starting pay of the teachers...and they are just as crucial to a child's development and education as our teachers are. In years past, the teachers haven't gone nearly as long without a payraise as the police, firefighters, human services, etc. They also haven't experienced furloughs in the manner that the rest of our valued county workers have. Why, oh why can't people see that Jack Dale contiually hijacks the budget? And, how dare he claim that he can't possibly adjust this year's budget at this point. If the county executive and the BOS can still work on (and massage) the FY 2014 budget, surely he can, too. It's just par for the course for how this man manipulates our tax dollars.
Heather Barber January 11, 2013 at 09:44 PM
We see the hijacking, Kari...it's just that the right people don't see it or do nothing about it. Some of those right people actually assist in the hijacking. I read the email that Dr. Dale sent last night to "FCPS All" and was reminded, yet again, why I am very glad to see him go. Yes, there are budget issues - and we all understand that - but money is not being appropriated or spent wisely. Don't even get me started...I am not going to read any more about this, lest I get myself in trouble! :)
joe brewer January 12, 2013 at 10:16 PM
This all part of the LCPS very effective public relations master plan. First, ask for a huge increase in the budget. Threaten that we will never be able to recruit another public school employee or get our kids to school ever again unless the budget is “fully funded”. (Whatever that means) Next, propose cuts to the budget that will necessitate cutting such frivolities as Math, English and History. (But spare Mandarin Chinese in the elementary schools) Step three is to wait for public outrage to die down and then propose an increase of “only” 4 or 5% instead of 10 or 11 % and send out a press release that highlights the “sacrifices” made by the LCPS while warning that if the B o S continues to shortchange education that our schools will fall apart and our kids will all be forever dumb. Better yet, make a video. Remember, it’s all about THE CHILDREN, not the education machine that consumes 80% of the Loudoun County’s revenue every year.
joe brewer January 12, 2013 at 10:18 PM
Conveniently argue that, while LoCo has the highest property taxes in the Commonwealth, high taxes will have no effect on our ability to attract and retain a commercial property tax base and new businesses. Taxes should be immediately raised to provide the Kingdom of Loudoun School System with whatever they need because it’s for THE CHILDREN. Make a promise to review the budget line by line to identify and wring out any fat in the budget. At the end of the year, announce another increase in test scores, the construction of 5 new schools (including the first $100 mm high school in the history of LoCo) and a $20 mm budget surplus. The most important part of the whole plan, however, is the spend the remaining funds on electronic whiteboards, iPads or junkets to China BEFORE the Board of Supervisors finds out about the surplus by reading about it in the newspaper. Articulate that a “lack of trust’” between the Board and the Hatrick Administration resulted in the lack of honesty about the budget surplus. (DO NOT admit that the budget had
joe brewer January 12, 2013 at 10:19 PM
some “padding” built into it) In the end, we will continue to increase the LCPS budget by 2 or 3 times the rate of inflation (after adjusting for over-estimated increases in enrollment), the kids will continue to go to gold-plated schools, closing the smallest, most inefficient schools will be “off the table”, English and math will remain part of the curriculum, the land acquisition process will remain done behind closed doors, part-time employees will continue to receive full benefits and Superintendent Hatrick will make yet another junket to a far-off land to observe how they teach their kids and impart this new-found wisdom on the school system. But remember, no one in the real world (private sector) gets paid benefits for part time jobs, school employees will remain fairly paid in return for a contractual 7 hour day 197 days a year with full health care and retirement benefits. We will continue to build schools because it not real money if it gets bonded. Sounds like a square deal to me. We must remain calm. We’ve read the LCPS budget battle book before and we know how it ends.
Michael January 13, 2013 at 01:25 AM
How do you furlough a teacher? The children still have to attend class, and Fairfax is already close to the minimum number of hours required by the state. So if you furlough someone, you have to pay a sub to teach their students, and your savings are minimal at best. Teachers HAVE been asked to do increased paperwork and administrative duties, take significantly less planning time, teach larger class sizes, and perform tasks for free that used to bring additional compensation. I agree that money is misappropriated in this budget, and that the school board is not insistent enough on midyear changes. But some of your claims about teachers don't wash with the truth.
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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