Loudoun Supervisors Laud Full-Day Kindergarten Progress

As they prepare to set out the budget for the next year, county supervisors have applauded the School Board’s progress on offering a full day of kindergarten to every Loudoun family that wants it.

Loudoun is one of only three counties in Virginia that does not offer universal full-day kindergarten. But included in the School Board’s budget request for next year is a plan to do just that, expanding from approximately 80 percent of the county this year and reaching the goal expanding the service countywide at least a year ahead of schedule.

At a joint meeting of the School board and Board of Supervisors last night, County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) called that “nothing less than astounding.”

“It’s amazing the progress that has been made on full-day kindergarten,” said Supervisor Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian). “For those of you who may not know, Fairfax County finally succeeded getting to universal full-day kindergarten in 2011, and that was a 10-year plan, and that included by the way trailers to get them to that.”

Superintendent Eric Williams’ first draft of the school system’s $1.202 billion fiscal year 2019 budget included $2 million to expand full-day offerings to 97 percent of students. About 260 students would have only a half day of kindergarten available to them.

A revision suggested by School Board member Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) tacked on another $204,000 to send students at the four elementary schools without the classroom space for full-day kindergarten to neighboring schools.

With the School Board’s request in hand, supervisors will now turn to writing the county budget. County Administrator Tim Hemstreet is scheduled to present his proposed budget Feb. 14.

Supervisors have instructed him to prepare that budget with revenues from a real estate tax rate of $1.09 per $100 of assessed value, a 3.5-cent cut from this year’s rate. That represents the equalized tax rate, or the rate at which the average taxpayer will pay the same dollar amount in real estate taxes despite rising property values.

At that rate, Williams estimates county revenues will fall short $11 million of the School Board’s request.

“The good news that strikes me instantly is, even at the equalized tax rate which is what the county administrator’s initial budget presentation will be, the gap is only $11 million,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles). “$11 million out of a $1.2 billion budget. So a lot of discussion and a lot of effort will take place over a relatively tiny percentage of the budget, which is good. It means our starting place is better than it’s been in a lot of years.”

But some persistent conflicts with the School Board could come up again this year. In particular, Letourneau asked about the school system’s continued effort to bring its pay scale in line with other, higher-paying Northern Virginia jurisdictions.

“For me, this is my seventh year doing this, all seven years I’ve heard about how we need to catch up … and we never seem to get there,” Letourneau said.

School Board Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles) responded that the school system’s difficulty is hiring more experienced teachers. And Williams’s budget presentation highlighted the county’s breakneck pace of growth.

“We’re going to continue to hire more than 800 teachers a year, and challenges are anticipated both in Virginia and nationally related to teacher vacancies,” Williams said.

And Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) said she had been “very impressed” with the school system’s computer science immersion classes. Students in every grade level at three elementary schools— Meadowland Elementary, Moorefield Station Elementary and Round Hill Elementary—spend at least 30 minutes every day learning computer coding. Umstattd wanted to know if that would be expanded to every school.

Williams said the school system plans to expand the emphasis on computer science in both elementary and middle schools, but does not currently plan to designate every elementary school an immersion school.

rgreene@loudounnow.com

4 thoughts on “Loudoun Supervisors Laud Full-Day Kindergarten Progress

  • 2018-02-08 at 1:06 pm
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    It’s not clear that full day kinder garden makes any difference at all in a child’s learning but we can go with the assumption that it probably won’t hurt and we are spending other peoples money so who cares?

    Now if we can just get LoCo Public Schools to open when it’s cold or when it rains, we’ll be on the right track.

  • 2018-02-09 at 5:25 am
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    Big spender Matt Letourneau appears to green light any inflated budget that LCPS sends over. He is beholden to his best friend Jeff Morse who, along with fellow school board members with spouses working inside LCPS, showers union employees with massive but unjustified raises. Let’s review:

    1. LCPS budgets have been so inflated the past few years, they couldn’t even spend $40M of their funding. This means there is not a so-called hole of $11M but an excess of $30M even if the BOS ponies up the unjustified $88M increase for LCPS.

    2. Because LCPS thought they could roll the BOS, they added an extra $3.5M in teacher raises between their original massive raise plan in December 2017 and January 2018. They literally think they can take all our tax $ and the money that should be going to improve pay in hard-to-fill law enforcement spots and give it to teachers when LCPS is flooded with applicants.

    3. LCPS has the lowest vacancy (microscopic 0.6%) and attrition rates of any nearby or comparable district. They literally can’t interview their qualified candidates. There is a teacher applicant surplus, not a shortage, in LCPS. Yet they give out 5-9% raises because they think taxpayer $ is theirs to shower on their friends and family.

    While folks disagree on FDK, it is a measly $2.0M line item in this $88M budget. The raises cost $41M+. They are unjustified. The only way to get to big-spending Supervisors like Letourneau off the BOS. He is not dumb. He knows that his good buddy LCPS chair Jeff Morse has pledged to continually throw big raises to “catch up” to Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax who must keep throwing big raises at their teachers to stay ahead of Loudoun. If those counties don’t have higher salaries, they simply can’t hire teachers who would take the same pay in lower cost-of-living Loudoun. This is a complete scam.

  • 2018-02-11 at 8:22 am
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    Virginia SGP, question for you. Your 3rd statement (about LCPS have the lowest vacancy/attrition rates) seems to contradict the quote from Jeff Morse “School Board Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles) responded that the school system’s difficulty is hiring more experienced teachers.”

    I don’t think Loudoun needs to ‘catch up’ salary-wise unless we are having difficulty filling slots, so this, to me, is an important fact to have correct. I saw your charts you linked to in your comment – where did you get these? Do you think J. Morse has other information he is using? Or, is there a distinction here between these two statements that I am missing. Thanks for any clarification.

  • 2018-02-12 at 9:01 am
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    Title should read, “Loudoun Supervisors Laud Pouring Money Down the Drain.” Of course, they are politicians. That’s what they do.

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