June 4, 2014

Review of Public Education in Fauquier County

Upon review of the Fauquier County educational system, I found:

Of the total budget to operate Fauquier County, 53% funds the Public School System. According to the School Superintendent’s Annual Report published in the Fall of 2013, of that $127 million school budget, 80% goes for instruction, 9% for Facilities, 7% for Transportation Services, and 4% for Administration. This money is used for the education of 11,065 students in the Public School System.

The budget does not include the cost to educate 1,645 students in private schools or the 586 home- schooled students that together, comprise about 17% of the total county student population.

The cost for the public education system is about $11,480 per student (national average $8,626/student) with about $804 of that used for transporting the students. For an average class size of 20, that amounts to $213,520/year for each classroom of students, excluding transportation.

The median Teacher Salary is $66,000 per year. The average expenditure for teacher benefits (medical, dental, pension) is about $11,550 per year so one could estimate the cost of median teacher total compensation at about $77,550 per year for their 180 day/year job. For comparison, the average non- teacher works about 230 days per year.

The average class cost of $213,520 minus average teacher compensation of $77,550 leaves $135,970 for what I think of as teacher support infrastructure. That means for every $1 of compensation for teachers, $1.75 is spent on their support infrastructure.

The conclusion from my review is that our public schools are very well funded and the financial management of the School Division appears reasonable.

Evaluating the quality of the educational service is much more challenging. I assume the objective of the education system is to prepare our youth for pursuing financially rewarding careers that will enhance their personal lives. However, there are some who believe the educational bureaucracy has evolved to be more focused on careers of administrators and teachers than students.

SOL test scores and student graduation rates are statistics being used to measure education effectiveness, but they simply rate proficiency at passing tests. How well those tests relate to a student’s future employment and life-style challenges is debatable.

College Acceptance rate is another statistic often quoted, however, being accepted by a University or College does not necessarily indicate preparedness for a rewarding career.

I believe that the way to determine the success of any education program is to survey students a decade after leaving it to ascertain how satisfied they are with their lives. Working hard at something that a person does not enjoy can be financially rewarding, but does not necessarily spawn happiness. Working hard at something that a person is passionate about, that also provides the requisite financial stability, is likely to generate a feeling of a life well lived.

While there can be many reasons why a particular person lives a fulfilling or unfulfilling life, their education can certainly play a significant role. If education professionals really want to assess their contributions to the lives of their students, they should survey all High School graduates and drop-outs from 1996 thru 2004 and compile statistics on the quality of life those students describe. Reunion committees and the internet make this a much more easily accomplished task than ever before.

Then we all will know if the $11,480 we spend each year on the education of each of our public school students is spent enhancing the lives of those students or financing the well-being of education system employees.

Rex A. Hoover

Avg class of 16 vs 20 $170,816/class - $77,550 = $93,266 / $77,550 = 1.2x