School Budget Reconciliation: Increased Class Sizes On the Table

The Loudoun County School Board will hear from the public tonight on how it should trim $16.9 million from its adopted operating budget for next fiscal year.

A public hearing is set for 6:30 p.m. at the county school administration building, at 21000 Education Court in Ashburn.

Superintendent Eric Williams presented the board last week with recommendations on how to close the gap between the $1.07 billion budget and the allocation approved by the Board of Supervisors. Supervisors voted to give the school system $694.8 million, a 5.5 percent increase over the current fiscal year, but not enough to cover everything the School Board had planned for fiscal year 2017.

Williams gave the School Board three lists: one detailing “recommended reductions,” one of “possible reductions,” and a list of cuts he would not recommend.

The recommended reductions he outlined included about $6.8 million worth of small adjustments in several areas of the budget, including holding off on creating a performing arts magnet program and restoring five middle school dean positions.

His list of what he called “possible reductions” totaled $21.7 million, many of which would delay some of the board’s plans to expand new programs and improve employee pay. The cut that would save the most money is a proposal to increase the average class size in elementary schools by half of a student, and by a full student in middle and high schools. That would eliminate the need for 117.4 new full-time equivalent teachers and save $10.2 million.

Another deep cut would be to roll out a scaled down version of the full-day kindergarten expansion. The board’s adopted budget would have expanded the program to about 75 percent of the county’s kindergartners, but the superintendent told board members last week that they may want to consider just extending it out to 53 percent of kindergartners, saving $4.8 million.

This school year, 34 percent of Loudoun kindergartners attend school for a full day. Loudoun County is one of only three school systems in Virginia that does not provide universal full-day kindergarten.

Also on the table is taking $1 million from the effort to restructure the teacher salary scale. The board initially earmarked $6.7 million toward that effort, meant to make pay for mid-level teachers more competitive.

One of the more controversial potential cuts mentioned on the “possible reductions” list would be to require health and physical education instructors to teach Family Life Education, to save about $1.8 million. It would mean as many as 12 teachers would lose their job, Williams said.

[See the full list of recommended reductions here.]

School Board member Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) said the superintendent’s blueprint of possible cuts was well thought out. “I don’t see anything there that’s not trying to do what’s best for the division,” she said.

The couple of changes she said she would not support is keeping small schools staffed with just a part-time principal instead of full time—which is on the superintendent’s list of reductions he would not recommend—or shifting FLE instruction to physical education teachers.

“I don’t want to make programmatic changes during a budget process if possible,” she said. “I’d rather look at it this coming year and see if it’s something we’re prepared to do.”

The board is scheduled to vote on changes and adopt a reconciled budget tomorrow.

2 thoughts on “School Budget Reconciliation: Increased Class Sizes On the Table

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  • 2016-04-13 at 2:38 pm

    So here is something to think about. We’ve all heard how so much of LCPS’ budget is “in the school”. But how much is truly allocated to the core classroom teacher. Those are the homeroom teachers in elementary school and the subject teachers in middle/high school.

    According to both the cost of the class size increase and a rough back-of-the-napkin calculation, only $300-350M of the $1,065M budget is used to fund those teachers. 70% is used for other things!

    Yes, we must transport kids to school, maintain the buildings, and have some level of administration. But as we look at only about $42M in possible cuts, maybe every cost that is outside of these classrooms should be explicitly identified so that next year, we could either slow the rate of growth or make better trade-offs. If my numbers are wrong, LCPS please correct them. But we have seen in the past that you never admit when you blatantly miscalculate or just provide misleading information. I certainly won’t be holding my breath.

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