April 27, 2011

Fauquier County School Budget Review

The Fauquier County Education budget is $123,856,388, which is about 42% of the total General Fund for FY2011, and $1,821 for each of our 68,010 inhabitants.

There are 839 Administrators and 702 full time teachers for our 11,264 students in Fauquier County's public schools.

I often hear statements of how underpaid our teachers are. The fact is that more than half of the workers in America are paid less and their jobs and benefits are at risk every day. Many of these people did not attend college, but most have invested at least as much as a typical teacher does in developing their career capabilities.

The lowest 10% of salaried teachers make about $40,000 per year, half make $66,000 or more, and 10% make more than $100,000. Their scheduled work-week is 37.5 hours long and they typically teach 4 to 6 fifty-minute classes per day.

Teachers also get retirement benefits, medical insurance, and every year they get 12 to 24 days of vacation, and 7.5 hours per month of accruable sick leave. They are actually compelled to teach only 147 to 159 days per year. To put that in perspective, the rest of us are compelled to work 232 to 242 days per year and many get less or no benefits.

I have also heard that teachers work a lot of extra time that they are not paid for. Many exempt employees in companies all across America work an annual average of 5 to 10% overtime for no compensation. That equates to 12 to 24 additional days per year.

Taxpayer's spend about $11,000 for each student or about $170,000 for each class each year, not counting the costs of buildings and grounds.

While I am certain that many teachers are worth more than they are paid when measured by their impact on their students, a system that appears to employ more people outside the classrooms than inside makes me wonder what a reasonable cost per student should be.

Add to that cost capital plans that spend millions of tax dollars on non-functional decor, and the only conclusion I can draw is that we are spending much more than necessary.

There is no greater civic duty than to provide the funds necessary to establish a public education system for our country's children. The quality of that education is paramount with the focus on assuring each generation has the skills to be successful in our global economy.

Nationally, student achievement has not improved significantly in decades while budgets have risen dramatically. Continuing this course is detrimental to our children and to our country.

I am not an educator and confess that I do not have answers to this complex set of problems. However, I believe there are people who can figure this out if the establishment is willing to consider their input objectively. When "conventional wisdom" doesn't work, we must have the courage to look elsewhere for our answers.

I implore the Board of Supervisors and the School Board to begin the search for better ways to manage our Education programs and dollars.

Rex A. Hoover