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A Closer Look: Our Public School Budget for FY 2025

A Closer Look: Our Public School Budget with a photo of a graph

The 2025 FCPS budget is worth reading. This 211 page document is extraordinary for its length, surely, but really for its fully integrated structure that includes the strategic plan, quality standards, and performance benchmarks. It provides details on every aspect of where the funds come from and how the money will be spent and basically how each dollar will forward the goals for our children. Most families may not have the time to read this hefty tome, so FCPS also created an easily digestible summary.

The only issue that I see with it is that the total amount of funding is inadequate. But this is NOT the fault of FCPS. We all know that the recent JLARC study found that Virginia underfunds our schools. State support for public education is severely and chronically underfunding when viewed against the US average (we are down 14%) and three of our neighboring states (KY, MD, WV). If we wish to be competitive, we have to do better for our kids and the state economy. 

All school systems rely on a balance of federal, state, and local funds for public education. Fairfax is unique in that over 70% of its funding comes from the county government and only about 19% comes from the state, which means that Fairfax County sees a net outflow of tax money to Richmond. Sales tax provides an additional 6.7% of the budget and the federal government provides about 1.3% of the FCPS revenue.

My takeaways from a topside review of the FCPS proposed 2025 budget are:

  • Our school system is doing a great job with the approved funds.

  • The FCPS proposed budget is a tribute to the management's dedication to excellence for our kids.

  • FCPS management is doing everything possible to optimize the use of our money, but there is not enough money to stay competitive in the modern economy, this is a State of Virginia issue, not FCPS’s fault.

  • FCPS is doing a great job of balancing all of the demands aimed at them, despite a seemingly endless set of desires, but too little money.

  • It is impossible to make everyone happy, as each advocacy group wants more money for their particular focus, 

  • The 0.8% rate for management positions is by far the lowest in NOVA, by far! Great management!

  • 86% of resources are fully invested in instructional staff and facilities. Other major costs include security, capital investments, and environmental investments such as e-buses and solar which will save money when implemented.

It is important for the public to read the proposed budget to see that it is complicated and expensive, but worth it, and it is important to focus on the right target for any issues that you have. 

Student applying for a job

In the end, we want our kids to have as many opportunities as possible with their skills, yet we want our kids to locate near us if at all possible–I know that I sure do. Additionally, we know that businesses start and often re-locate based primarily on the available pool of skilled labor. Therefore, we want our local schools to build skills and confidence in our students, to prepare them for a range of opportunities to support themselves, their families and communities. 

We know that our local businesses and governments hire and promote the best of the available talent. I want my kids to be well-positioned to compete with any other kids–to get the best opportunities and to excel at them. Also, I want your kids to be their best so that maybe when your kid starts a new business here in Fairfax County, then they might hire my kid, or vice versa. 

Yes, it takes money, a lot of money but we all know that investment in the education of our kids is the best investment that we can make. I don't want our kids to have to move to a state that has better business opportunities–instead, I want them to find opportunities in our Commonwealth: to grow the Virginia economy, to generate taxes that pay it forward by their investments in the future. 

If we do not lead in the education of our kids, then someone else's kids will lead the way into the next generations. 
Students standing in a circle with hands grasped in the center of the circle

We here at 4PE encourage you to:

  1. Read the budget (or skim it), and understand the complexity of managing a huge operation under tremendous scrutiny and competing interests, but all are focused on the best for our kids. 

  2. Participate in the public comment period for the County-wide budget on April 16-18, and/or the public comment period for the FCPS budget on May 14. 

  3. Write or call your FCPS board member to thank them for their service, to voice your support for the proposed budget

  4. WRITE, CALL and VISIT your state delegate and senator to demand more resources for Virginia public schools. 

Rick Clayton worked as an economist at the US Bureau Labor Statistics for 40 years.  He worked to improve the monthly payroll survey, to accelerate and improve data quality of the BLS business register, to publish and analyze structural business statistics such as business births, openings and closings. He also built the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS).  He has studied entrepreneurship and the role of a quality labor force as a driver for attracting businesses. He is the chief economist at Clayton Economics specializing in business surveys. 

1 Comment

Norm Hall
Norm Hall
Feb 23

I would suggest that the budget lacks detail in showing how FCPS will catch up in terms of meeting the needs of the many students with disabilities who fell behind during the pandemic. Is anyone aware of documentation showing the status of all of the students who went through the process that resulted from the consent agreement with the Federal Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR)? It's like the ESSER III process that I spend time following. Many commitments that should have been made had they followed through on requirements are unmet - and most likely the students who have come out the worst are the ones who are most marginalized due to lack of household resources.…

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