Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is a very large school system. Sporting over 164,000 enrolled students, it is the largest system in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the twelfth largest in the United States. FCPS has over 200 schools—136 elementary, 22 middle, 4 secondary, 24 high, and 12 special education centers. The system has nearly 22,000 employees, 1,500 school busses, and (for FY2006) an operating budget of nearly 2 billion dollars.
Of that 2 billion dollars, over $1.56 billion comes from a Fairfax County General Fund disbursement—about 52 percent of the entire county’s budget. The next largest item in the county budget, ‘Public Safety,’ gets a comparatively tiny 13 percent investment (about 387 million dollars).
I’m not sure that I understand why (or how) our schools—which, along with rest of the country’s public schools, simply don’t work anymore—receive more county funding than police, fire, public works, judicial administration, community development, health and welfare, parks and recreation, libraries, transportation, and debt service combined. I especially fail to see why the exorbitant expenditures of the county and state for public schooling in Fairfax (over $11,000 per-student annually) are not enough.
Citizens of Fairfax County will be asked through a bond referendum (PDF link [no longer available]) to authorize the borrowing of an additional 246 million dollars (on top of previous bonds) that will be used to fund school improvements and the building of new schools. This is another sad example of ‘throw money at it’ syndrome. FCPS already takes a disproportionate amount of the county’s revenue and has little to show for it. I’ve been in Fairfax schools and I never felt that what I got was worth $1,000/year, let alone $11,000. Until FCPS is held fully accountable for its spending and its failures, I cannot in good conscience encourage increasing the mind-boggling amount of money we already give them.
Therefore, I strongly endorse a NO vote on the Fairfax County School Bond issue.
Public education is failing in this country, and it is most-certainly not because the schools need more money. If anything, our schools are over-funded. Their utter failure is due to poor management, a lack of accountability, the self-serving mettling of teacher’s unions (bad teachers should be fired, not tenured), and the insanity of allowing elected boards to corrupt education for short-term political gain. These missteps have combined to create our problems. Another 246 million dollars in unnecessary debt will not contribute to fixing them.