Increases in teacher salaries, more funding for special education and expansion of the student laptop program are among the highlights of the fiscal year 2021 budget request from Fairfax County Public Schools.
Superintendent Scott S. Brabrand presented the $3.2 billion budget to the Fairfax County School Board last Thursday evening. The request is a 5.8 percent increase over the FY 2020 budget.
The budget includes $50.1 million for step increases for eligible employees, as well as $43.4 million in other pay-related increases. Almost $30 million is allocated for health insurance increases and rate increases in the Virginia Retirement System, according to an FCPS press release.
Brabrand emphasized in the press release and an accompanying video that FCPS is continuing push for better compensation for teachers and staff in order to strengthen recruiting and retention. FCPS, the largest school district in the state and in the D.C. area, has in recent years chipped away at the salary gap between it and districts like Arlington, Alexandria and Montgomery County, according to data compiled by the Washington Area Boards of Education. But FCPS remains behind those districts in average teacher salary, and Brabrand said he wants that to change.
“The proposed FY 21 budget continues to prioritize market competitive compensation for our teachers and staff,” Brabrand said. “My goal is to have FCPS leading the way in teacher compensation in our region.”
The FY 21 budget request also includes $601.6 million for special education services, which FCPS said was a 7.5 percent increase over the previous year.
The FCPSOn laptop program, introduced at the high school level for the 2019-2020 school year, will get $4.0 million in order to expand it to middle schools in 2020-2021.
Other budget highlights:
$3.5 million to support needs-based staffing for schools with increased free or reduced-price meals eligibility in order to reduce class sizes
$300,000 for substance abuse prevention specialists
$1.5 million for dropout prevention, including on-time graduation coordinators for nine high schools
$1.4 million for additional school counselors
$800,000 for high school per-pupil allocations based on the number of students eligible for free and reduced-price meals to address student activity fund equity
The budget will need to be approved by the school board and then will be sent to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for final passage. The Board of Supervisors has fully funded FCPS’s budget requests for the past two year, and Braband said he hopes to once again get the full budget approved.
“I have prioritized collaboration with the School Board and our county funding partners and the result has been two consecutive years of fully-funded budget requests for our school division,” Brabrand said in the press release. “We are grateful for the support demonstrated by the County Executive and the Board of Supervisors. The budget I am proposing for FY 21 is transparent and deserving of full funding.”