The front page of Post Metro today carried an article describing how the Governor’s proposed budget cuts are impacting Fairfax City’s only high school and the alma mater of yours truly (Rebel Class of ’86).
From the article, it’s apparent that FHS will be terminating an innovative guidance program implemented by its excellent principal Scott Brabrand. The cause is given as “state budget cuts.” That’s true to an extent but there’s more to it than that.
First a little background …
Under the Virginia Constitution, the General Assembly is required to ensure that each Virginia child receives an “adequate public education” through grade 12.
It does this by allocating money to local school districts for funding minimum standards called the Standards of Quality or “SOQ’s.” The state funding is then mixed with local money to fund the actual operations of each school division. In Fairfax County, the local tax base supports a curriculum, approved by the School Board, which stretches far beyond the SOQ’s.
This year, the Governor is proposing a $400+ million cut in state K-12 funding to balance the budget. What does that mean? In Fairfax County, that will equal about $40 million or so less in state funding. (I don’t know actual figures yet).
Combine that cut with a County budget deficit of nearly a half-billion dollars and you see the problem. Accordingly, the Superintendent of FCPS has ordered cuts in programs outside the SOQ, incuding counselors and extra-curricular sports. Even class sized will be impacted.
I say this as an explanation, not as an apology.
The budget will be lower. That is undisptued. However, the State Senate has taken a position that cuts in funding to our school districts will be treated as “one-time” reductions, not systemic changes, and that schools be given flexibility to use the funds as they see fit. As further funds come on-line, we will try to allocate them back to districts to restore those programs that work and positions that make a difference.
That’s not to say we don’t want to save money. We do. But we don’t want to see successful programs wholly abandoned regardless of their merit. Superintendents and principals need the flexibility to cut money where it’s least needed, not based upon rote direction from Richmond.