Non-parent taxpayers unsure about district's success
Most Fairfax County parents say they "trust" the public school system and that it's serving their children well, according to a new survey commissioned by school officials.
Those officials were pleased to discover that 81 percent of parents say they believe Fairfax County Public Schools is "a trustworthy public institution."
|Progress in Fairfax County|
|When it came to questions about the school system's progress, a sizable number of parents said they didn't have enough information to make an assessment. Still, more than half of parents agreed that Fairfax County Public Schools was on the right track.|
|Strongly agree||Agree||Disagree||Strongly disagree||Don't have enough information|
|The district has made progress in students' academic skills||12%||46%||13%||2%||27%|
|The district has made progress in students' gaining essential life skills||10%||41%||17%||3%||29%|
|The district has made progress in students' understanding of their responsibility to the community||12%||44%||15%||3%||26%|
|Source: Trust and Confidence Survey results|
But Superintendent Jack Dale said he was concerned that a large number of non-parent taxpayers reported not knowing what's going on in Fairfax County Public Schools, where 53 percent of the county's budget is spent.
"We don't have a good vehicle for disseminating information to our business community," Dale told reporters Monday. "I think that's an area where we can begin to look at."
This is the first year Fairfax school officials have polled residents on how well the system is serving the community. The survey, which will likely be conducted every two years, cost $10,000 and engaged 6,177 taxpayers who did not have children enrolled in the public school system and 6,773 who did.
Parents reported higher levels of confidence in the school system than those without children in the district: 63 percent of non-parents agreed that FCPS is "a trustworthy public institution."
Another 80 percent of parents agreed that FCPS is providing students with a 21st-century education, and 81 percent said teachers are effectively preparing students for the future.
Parents also agreed that -- although less so -- that FCPS operates "in the best interests of all students," with 64 percent agreeing, 28 percent disagreeing, and 8 percent saying they didn't have enough information.
On most questions, the lion's share of non-parent taxpayers said they didn't know enough about the schools to make an assessment: for instance, 64 percent said they didn't know enough to say whether the quality of education has improved over the past two years.
Seventy percent of the schools' budget comes from the county. When it came to whether FCPS manages its $2.2 billion budget responsibily, just 39 percent of non-parent taxpayers said yes; 20 percent disagreed and 42 percent said they didn't have enough information.
Jerry Gordon, president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, said businesses need to be engaged in the public schools because they're cranking out future employees.
"If I'm a businessman and I want to field technology positions, I'm going around the country -- even the world -- to find the best," he said. "It's important that they can attract the right workforce here."
Dale said the county used to stuff every mailbox in the county with newsletters about the schools, but it became too costly amid budget cuts.
"Perhaps we have to look at doing so again," he said.