Local: Education

Fairfax County teachers' raise cut in half

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Local,Virginia,Education,Rachel Baye,Fairfax County

Fairfax County Schools Superintendent Jack Dale is pulling back half of the raise he proposed for teachers after the cash-strapped county Board of Supervisors denied the school system $61.7 million of the $92.4 million budget increase it requested.

Elimination of a 1 percent pay raise to keep salaries in line with regional competitors would save $18.9 million of the $44.7 million the school board needs to balance the budget. Teachers are still slated to pay 1 percent less toward their retirement, while the school system will make an additional 1 percent contribution, an effective 1 percent raise.

Other proposed cuts include $3.5 million for a teacher work day Dale wanted to add to half of teachers' contracts, $3.6 million in building maintenance and a nearly $1 million expansion of foreign language programs for elementary and middle schools.

The school board is scheduled to take up the proposal at its meeting Thursday night.

Eliminating the proposed pay raise makes sense for the current year, said at-large school board member Ted Velkoff.

While the state has offered to match the school system's contribution toward the cost of a total 2 percent raise for teachers this year, next year the school system would be left with an additional $20 million burden on its own, he said. Instead, Velkoff said the board should make it a priority to give employees a step increase next year.

Dale's 1 percent raise was not the most effective use of funds, said Fairfax County Federation of Teachers President Steven Greenburg, so he is not upset that it has been pulled.

However, he added, the school system is missing an opportunity by turning away the state's offer of roughly $6 million. He proposed the school system offer teachers a 2 percent raise halfway through the fiscal year in January to take advantage of the match.

Supervisor Pat Herrity, R-Springfield, agreed with Greenburg's proposal.

The school system has $30 million of unspent money intended for salaries, the result of overestimating how many teachers remain with the school system from year to year, Herrity said, suggesting the funds should be used to pay for the school system's half of a 2 percent raise.

"Our teachers should be the highest paid in the region if we're going to be the best school system in the region," Herrity said.

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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