- The Washington Times - Monday, December 29, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It is, once again, budget-reduction time for Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). Bureaucrats, bloated with six-figure salaries, sharpen their dull fiduciary axes, preparing to lop off every visible monetary appendage.

According to the FCPS Vision and Mission Statement, the schools exist “to provide a gifted-quality education to every child in an instructional setting appropriate for his or her need… [and]… to educate all students to meet high academic standards and to prepare all students to be responsible citizens in the 21st century.”

Most of the proposed budget cuts are devoid of logic, and some represent complete ignorance of consequences. For example:

The Enterprise School is a public-private partnership. If FCPS assigned 50 students to the school, the per-pupil cost would be less than if the students remained in their base schools, and there would be no liability for building, utility, transportation or administrative costs. FCPS would save money and could reduce its core budget. However, the recommendation is to cut all funding to the Enterprise School. Assuming the goal is to save money, this model should be expanded - not eliminated.

Career and Transition Services will lose people and contract length. The national average for the postsecondary engagement (school, work, etc.) of special-needs students is 50 percent. FCPS students have a statistically documented postsecondary engagement average of 93 percent. That additional percentage translates into tax enhancement versus additional support services that are tax-consumptive. Whoop goes the ax!

For approximately 60,000 of the 180,000-plus students in Fairfax County schools, English is not their primary language, according to the 2005 Language Minority Count. If just 10 percent of the 60,000 are undocumented and the per-pupil cost is $15,000, the county school system is spending $90 million annually to educate our future undocumented day laborers. In light of the mission statement, I wonder if the goal of FCPS is to prepare citizens of all countries for the 21st century? If so, perhaps other countries should help fund this enterprise. I don’t hear the sound of an ax.

The “rice bowl” mentality of Fairfax County is culturally ingrained. Each unit protects its own. FCPS will reduce its budget, and the Fairfax County government will reduce its budget. Do not each of these budgets come from the same place - our collective wallets? That reality, and not an overall planning strategy, seems to be the only common denominator in this process.

I expect more from my elected and appointed representatives, and I continue to listen for the sound of the ax.

RICK OLSON

Fairfax

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