Guest Commentary: Dispelling Myths About the F.C. School Budget

April 24, 2014 9:21 AM30 comments

By Justin Castillo

On Monday, April 28, the Falls Church City Council will make important decisions regarding the City’s budget, including whether to fund the School Board’s budget at the requested level. While the Council’s recent work session was constructive, the schools still could face over $300,000 in cuts. That makes it a good time to review the proposed FCCPS budget and to explain what is driving the requested increases.

This is also a good opportunity to dispel some stubborn myths about our schools and our budget and to highlight several points that the community should keep in mind as we discuss the City’s finances:

First, while some want to pit “the Schools” against “the City” in a budgetary battle royal, the fact is that we’re all in this together. The City Council and the School Board understand this and have been working together amicably and productively.

Second, comparisons with nearby jurisdictions reveal that the schools do not take a disproportionate share of the budget. The current 45 percent requested is in line with both Fairfax and Arlington.

Third, budgeted per-pupil costs are in line with those of our neighbors ($16,991 in FY14 for Falls Church compared to $18,880 in Arlington, and $16,880 in Alexandria).

Fourth, we operate our school system efficiently. In fact, a recent efficiency study praised the schools’ lean administrative organization. The instructional side is equally efficient: The inflation-adjusted per-pupil City transfer in FY 15 is 17 percent lower than it was in FY2007.

Finally, the schools are not “getting everything they want,” and there are substantial unmet needs: The Superintendent identified nearly $2.4 million in professional development, staffing, maintenance and other vital items, but chose not to include them in her request given the priority of addressing student enrollment increases.

Budgets reflect priorities, and the three priorities that drove the increases in the requested budget this year are: 1) closing the teacher pay gap; 2) maintaining class size in the face of rising enrollment; and 3) meeting our legal obligations.

Our first priority is to close the teacher pay gap over the next four years, which accounts for about a third of the proposed budget increase. The pay gap, which started over the past several years, has grown to the point where FCCPS teachers earn 5 to 25 percent less than their colleagues in surrounding school divisions, which is affecting our ability to retain teachers. For example, we recently lost some excellent teachers because Arlington pays as much as $21,000 more per year than we do. The pay gap also hampers our ability to attract new teachers. This is a serious problem given that we must replace or augment 40 percent of our teaching staff over the next five years due to retirement, attrition, and growth.

As a footnote, three percent of the raise many of our teaching staff will receive this year will go directly to the Virginia Retirement System, which means that they won’t see any increase in their paycheck.

The second budget driver is rising enrollment, which accounts for about half of the increase in this year’s budget request. Falls Church is the fastest-growing school division in Northern Virginia, growing by over 6 percent this year. We expect another 172 students next year, which is approximately one grade’s worth of students. That figure could be higher if new development yields more students than forecast.

More students means more teachers (personnel costs comprise 85 percent of the budget) to keep class sizes manageable. Without money to hire new teachers, some class sizes could be substantially over policy limits even though average class size has increased in recent years.

The final budget driver consists of mandated programs, which account for the remainder of the increase in this year’s request. These include increases in health care premiums, retirement premiums, security funding and special education staffing.

The proposed budget reflects what FCCPS needs. While the School Board scrutinized the Superintendent’s proposed budget and cut over $290,000, it was not possible to make further cuts without jeopardizing class size and/or instructional programs. It is my hope that the City Council will be mindful of this fact and that it will fund the requested budget in full.

While we face some tough challenges, we should remember that the members of the “Greatest Generation” who created the modern City of Falls Church after World War II overcame demographic and fiscal challenges that seem far more daunting. For example, those who believe that the City is overrun by young families with kids (currently about 25 percent of the population is under 19) should look back to 1960, when 42 percent of the City’s population was under 19. And while enrollment is growing (it’s about 2,600), it was almost 2,300 in the mid-1960s, when the population of the Little City was far smaller. We met those challenges then, and we can meet the new challenges now.

 


Justin Castillo is vice chair of the Falls Church City School Board.

  • Bill Royce

    Dispelling Myths Perpetuated by the Guest Commentator:

    Our Guest says: “the schools still could face over $300,000 in cuts” [from City Council]

    However, a 9.2% increase over last year instead of a 10% increase is hardly a “cut”; it is in fact a remarkably generous increase in funding. (Source of data is FCCPS 2015 Budget proposal.)

    * FCCPS’ current (FY 2014) operating budget is $40,937,800
    * FCCPS has requested an increase for FY 2015 to $45,015,400
    * City Council might approve an increase for FY 2015 to $44,715,400

    For perspective:

    * Dr. Jones’ total annual compensation is nearly $300,000.

    * The annual compensation packages of FCCPS’ top five earners added together will be nearly $1.2 Million.

  • Bill Royce

    Guest says: “we operate our school system efficiently. In fact, a recent efficiency study praised the schools’ lean administrative organization. The instructional side is equally efficient…”

    Also, on page 9 of Dr. Jones Budget slide deck she claims the FCCPS spends 74% of it operating budget on instruction.”

    However, according to the Virginia State Department of Education (VDOE), in implementing a mandate passed by the VA General Assembly, and published on page 28 of the official VA State Report Card on FCCPS, less than 65 cents of each dollar in FCCPS’ operating budget is spent on instructional costs.

    The General Assembly enacted the requirement due to concerns that school districts were spending too much money on non-instructional expenses but due to the peculiarities of the accounting code structure used by school districts the
    public might misunderstand the nature of these expenses and could conclude
    their district spends more on Instruction than it actually does.

    When VDOE applied its methodology to FCCPS expenditures for 2012, it was determined that just less than 65% of FCCPS operating budget was spent on instruction. Applying VDOE’s method the FCCPS proposed 2015 budget shows no improvement — FCCPS still spends slightly less than 65% of its budget on Instruction.

    FCCPS’ Superintendent apparently disagrees with the VA General Assembly and VDOE’s efforts to strengthen accountability for expenditures by school divisions. Dr. Jones instead prefers to use a method she describes as “less stringent” [than the one mandated by the General Assembly].

    Dr. Jones’ scheme starts with the specific instructional expenses identified by our legislatures and VDOE (including the salaries for classroom teachers, instructional
    aides; librarians; guidance counselors; principals; assistant principals; the fringe benefit expenditures for instructional positions; and textbooks.

    She then pumps up her numbers by including the costs of the following additional wages, benefits, goods and services:

    Director’s Wages (housed at Central Office)
    Assistant Superintendent (housed at Central Office)
    Association Membership Dues
    Books & Subscriptions
    Bus Driver Field Trips
    City Retirement Benefits
    Clerical Wages
    Computer Aide Wages
    Computer Software & Supplies
    Conferences/Workshops/Travel
    Disability Insurance
    Educational Supplies
    FICA Benefits
    Food Supplies
    Group Life Benefits
    Health Medical Benefits
    Insurance
    Lease/Rental of Equipment
    Maintenance Services
    Office Supplies
    Other Professional Wages
    Overtime Wages
    Part-time Clerical Wages
    Part-time Specialist Wages
    Post-Employment Benefits
    Postal Services
    Professional Services
    Recreation Supplies
    Remedial Instruction Wages
    Social Worker Wages
    Special Activities
    Specialist Wages
    Substitute Wages
    Supplemental Wages
    Technology Supervisor
    Telecommunication Services
    Testing Materials
    Transportation Private
    VRS Benefits
    Workers’ Compensation

    Before you know it appears that FCCPS spends 74% of its operating fund on instruction. Dr. Jones hired a consulting company to confirm that the dollar value of the long list of expenditures noted above add up to over 74% of the budget.

  • Bill Royce

    Dispelling Myths Perpetuated by the Guest Commentator:

    Guest says: “…it was not possible to make further cuts without jeopardizing class
    size and/or instructional programs.”

    I’d be glad to help. Here is some low hanging fruit:

    • A new $500,000 budget item for 2015 (this item was not identified in the 2014 or prior years budgets) is identified only as “Lease/Purchase Additions.” Lease/Purchase of What? (If you can’t name it, you probably don’t really need it.)

    • $600,000 for computer support personnel and $800,000 worth of additional
    computer equipment (There is no discernable plan for how the personnel will be
    deployed or for what purpose the equipment will be used.) Read the FCCPS Technology Strategic Plan as proof there is no plan.

    • $1,100,000 for additional and undefined “professional services”

    • $500,000 for undefined “maintenance services”

    And, of course $250,000 for gifts (to bestowed on unnamed persons for unidentified reasons)

    Further, as overall perspective on FCCPS Budget:

    In 2014 FCCPS employee benefits totaled $8.8 M, in 2015 employee benefits will total over $10 M (of a $45 M budget) – a 14% increase.

    Many FCCPS employees will earn substantially more than their regular wages from budget lines items called “Other Professional Wages”; “Supplemental
    Wages”; and “Overtime Wages”. While there is not a lot of definition readily available for these extra forms of income, the total amount of money available is over $3.3 M.

  • FallsChurchCitizen

    I posted this on another story but it’s perhaps more pertinent here. According to a story published by the FCNP a couple of months ago, at least 3 members of the School Board are willing to accept an 8.9% increase.
    http://fcnp.com/2014/02/26/f-c-school-board-digging-in-wont-cut-budget-to-meet-council-wishes/
    “Sharpe, in an informational show of hands, favored asking for Scenario 3, a 9.8 percent increase, along with Margaret Ward and the board’s student member, Maeve Curtin. Board members Lawrence Webb, John Lawrence and Michael Ankuma were all willing to go with the 8.9 percent increase in Scenario 5.”

  • Alison Kutchma

    Justin:

    I really appreciate your acknowledgement that we all want to work together on this budget effort. I see the “us vs. them” mentality on this work as a smoke screen for
    useful dialogue so I am completely with you there.

    One of the things that I find frustrating with any campaign is the use of statements that are not completely factual. I try to be very careful when I post that my
    statements are completely true. In all the years that I have been writing to the paper and on-line, including statements that named names and documents, no one has ever approached me to say that my statements weren’t true. Being honest is important to me.

    Unfortunately I have had a pretty steady stream of occasions where school officials make statements that are in fact not true. In the corporate world that wouldn’t be
    tolerated because people would take their business elsewhere. As a parent, I have not had that option. However, because of my experience I verify before I trust these days. Perhaps you have had a different experience so maybe you trust all the information that is presented to you. I just don’t.

    So, not to pick on you in a public forum but I want to ask you to about some of the statements you have made here. When you say that teachers are leaving for
    more pay to go to Arlington, did you verify this in anyway? Were you told that by Administrators or did you talk to the teachers themselves? I’m asking and I will ask because I won’t believe it for a second unless I find out that it was independently verified. My information about departures does not match the “left for more money” story so I wonder. Given my experience with staff definition of truth, I wonder even more. I certainly hope that Ann McCarty’s departure isn’t counted as one of
    those four. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt here and am just going to assume that she is not.

    Second of all, I don’t think we compare to Arlington as closely as is often represented because our populations of students that require real teaching is smaller. Additionally, teachers like to work here because of this and mostly because of our size. So comparing us is apples to oranges and many people know it so using that as an argument loses me and I know others as well, on that thread of
    logic. Do you understand? There is a credibility loss there.

    You also state that the budget includes what FCCPS needs. Susan Kearney used the term bare bones I believe in her commentary on the budget. This is where you lose me completely. As noted in the comments posted here by Bill Royce – let me ask you how do you justify using the word need? How can I trust someone who states publicly that the budget is bare bones when it includes money for a 501 c 3. I believe the Education Foundation is a non-profit that people can chose to fund if they so desire. Why do tax payers fund this choice? Also some Administrators get raises when those of us out here work years with no raise at all? I thought this was lean times – you know bare bones?

    I am also gravely concerned that I still do not see a budget shift that responds to the populations in our district who are in the most need. As I have stated on other
    blogs, my child does not need a school supplied computer. I believe what is a
    greater need are the children who really need our collective support: the subgroups
    “Students with Disabilities” “Economically Disadvantaged” and “Limited English Proficiency.” How do you feel about Marshall High School smoking us on meeting the needs of these children? I want to do better. We need to help those children. It appears the Limited English Proficiency group – though I am not certain, do not have an organized and vocal advocate that is getting through to anyone because have you seen those scores? I am more concerned about those children than
    “gilding the lily” as one comment put it. (When I say that I am not saying that hiring the teachers that are required is gilding the lily – it’s the computers and other items that fall in this category – just to be clear.)

    I am asking you to carefully look at what Mr. Royce has outlined because I receive
    a pretty steady stream of emails about this. Each person expresses frustration at this situation while not individually knowing that I find them in a growing sector of our little city. Please listen to that. I also am asking you to shift some of these “bare
    bones” funds to the students who need the support the most though they may not
    be organized enough to ask. The long standing situation with serving special education students has not been addressed and that also is part of this examination I request – details of which will be for another day.

    And if all the school board refuses to require that shift; continues to not ask
    questions; and ask for details (about the line items Mr. Royce has pointed out
    and the information that I have) then I and so many others that write me are
    forced to place you all in same bucket. My hope is that Council Members won’t fall in
    too.

  • Bill Royce

    Dispelling Another Myth Perpetuated by the Guest Commentator:

    Guest says ” it was not possible to make further cuts without jeopardizing class size and/or instructional programs.”

    So guest (and entire school board) are you all saying that it is more important to have a $250,000 slush fund for gifts and grants then it is hire teachers and conduct instructional activities?

    Please step forward and stand your ground.

    BTW — I can’t find a budget line item for “gifts” or “gifts and grants” in the budgets of any neighboring school district, nor is there an entry for such expenses in the VA State “Account Code Structure for the Annual School Report Financial Section” document.

  • Bill Royce

    Our Guest says:
    “Our first priority is to close the teacher pay gap over the next four years, which accounts for about a third of the proposed budget increase…

    “Arlington pays as much as $21,000 more per year than we do”

    Where do you get the idea that someone who could earn $21,000 more per year in an Arlington County school, is going to stay in FCCPS for the additional $3,000 a year they will get from this year’s increase? That’s an $18,000 per year differential!

    Also, how does giving everybody a raise satisfy the few who are coin-operated?

    Say I go to my boss and say — I found a job that is a lateral move but will pay me $21,000 more a year. Boss says to me — if you don’t leave I’ll pay everybody in the company 5% more?

    “…affecting our ability to retain teachers.”

    Here is chart created from FCCPS data, http://tinyurl.com/oskdu45 showing the number of teachers who left FCCPS over the past several years to take employment in another Virginia school district; there are around 120 school districts in VA.

    In FY12 there were 2 who left for a promotion to a larger scope position – the principle at MEHMS went to a much larger middle school as a means for career
    advancement. (Think we should have built a bigger school to keep her here?) She gave one of her trusted lieutenants a promotion to come with her.)

    If a real problem has risen in the past year it is more likely a result of FCCPS School Board telling teachers how much more money they can make elsewhere

    Also, I ran across this statement the other day:

    Fairfax County schools Superintendent Karen Garza … [says] …raises are crucial because Fairfax [County Public school] salaries lag behind neighbors. Garza says she wants Fairfax to lead in pay within five years.

    I wonder how many other school district superintendents’ are using this same sales pitch.

    “…hampers our ability to attract new teachers”

    When our Superintendent responded to a survey on personnel hiring
    conducted by the Virginia State Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission
    for a 2013 Report to the Governor and the State Legislature the picture she painted was very different.

    In Section C: School Division Survey, starting on page 63, Dr. Jones (as well as superintendents of neighboring school districts were queried about their district’s ability to fill different staff positions and responded to questions about three specific issues for regarding hiring for each position:

    [Is your] Applicant pool [for the position] of sufficient size

    [Are] Applicants … of sufficiently high quality

    [Are you] Able to compete with other employers

    With very few exceptions Dr Jones answered yes to each question about about each position.

    Not many of us in workforce are simply ”coin-operated” – and a statement in the
    study confirmed this to me with respect to the teaching profession:

    …reasons frequently cited for changing employers is dissatisfaction with the
    school administration or student disciplinary problems.

  • FallsChurchCitizen

    If only we could get Mr. Royce or Ms. Kutchma elected to the school board! :)

  • Bill Royce

    Guest — Please let me know when you are ready to discuss the “FCCPS Instructional Technology Plan for 2014-2017″

    We can start with the phony quote I found Dr. Jones had slipped in hoping to perpetuate the myth that FCCPS is efficient and well managed. (See page 10 of the “plan” at the statement “Primary strength was noted as well managed department. In addition: Strong fiscal oversight, efficiency in management, and focus on security and safety for the students including systems management.)”

    Or we can start with Dr. Jones’ conclusion (on page 21 of the “plan”) that the total cost of ownership for IT systems doesn’t apply to FCCPS. Instead, because “a new educational paradigm exists” we can all simply assume that students have computers that don’t cost anything to purchase, rent or operate. And once we assume the existence of these zero-cost computers, there are immediate savings of about $150 per student because the school won’t have to buy as much xerox paper anymore. (If folks think I’m making this stuff up they should go read the ridiculous pile of disjointed thought FCCPS calls a “Strategic Plan.)

    Or we can discuss the phony Performance Metrics section of the “plan” — nothing more than a collection of irelevent screenshots at best tangentially related to the topic.

    Or we can rehash the means by which Dr, Jones denied access to a taxpayer funded study of FCCPS IT systems under phony pretenses.

    (I’m going to run out of blog space before I run out of examples.)

  • jimbledsoe

    Mr. Castillo, the gauntlet has been thrown. You are invited
    to respond to the points made by Dr. Royce and others. Here is once again an
    opportunity for the School Board to regain the trust of Falls Church taxpayers
    who want to understand the truth. You and the School Board might believe that
    further engagement to defend your comments is an unproductive exercise. Problem
    is we didn’t write this commentary you did. You must have conducted the proper
    level of research and due diligence appropriate to defend any criticism or
    question related to its content. The floor is yours.

  • Bill Royce

    Follow this link http://tinyurl.com/lpq9utm to a machine readable version of the FCCPS proposed budget for 2015. I finally got fed up trying to the understand
    the School Board’s budgets in the ,pdf format in which its published, so I scanned their file and loaded it into MicroSoft Excel 2007 and provide it as a public service to all.

    The first tab in the file is a roll-up of all expenditures by type, the second tab has expenditures by location, the third tab contains the school system account code numbers.

    You should be able to download the file from google and see for yourself that when the school board says they have “cut to the bone” they mean they have slashed proposed expenditures on “gifts and grants” from $333,500 in 2014 to a meager $250,000 in 2015.

    And while we don’t know who might get one of the gifts or why, we do know (from Dr. Jones, Susan Kearney and now the guest commentator) that preserving this slush fund is more important than hiring additional teachers.

    • Alison Kutchma

      Bill:

      Can you explain the VRS number? What is the add on as a percentage to salaries with that? And also the health benefits?

      • Alison Kutchma

        I figured it out and I shared what I figured out above.

    • Alison Kutchma

      Thanks for doing this Bill. It’s easier to read.

  • Bill Royce

    Guest says: “we operate our school system efficiently. In fact, a recent efficiency study praised the schools’ lean administrative organization. The instructional side is equally efficient”

    Dr. Jones says, on page 9 of her budget slide deck, that FCCPS spends 74% of its operating budget on instruction.

    However, less than 65% of FCCPS’ operating budget is spent on instructional costs according to the Virginia State Department of Education (VDOE), in implementing a mandate passed by the VA General Assembly, and published on the official VA State Report Card on FCCPS (See page 27 of http://tinyurl.com/ldkyddh)

    The General Assembly enacted the requirement due to concerns that school districts were spending too much money on non-instructional expenses but due to the peculiarities of the accounting code structure used by school districts the public might misunderstand the nature of these expenses and could conclude their district spends more on Instruction than it actually does.

    When VDOE applied its methodology to FCCPS expenditures for 2012, it was determined that just less than 65% of FCCPS operating budget was spent on instruction. I applied the same VDOE methodology to the FCCPS proposed 2015 budget shows no improvement; FCCPS still spends slightly less than 65% of its budget on Instruction.

    FCCPS’ Superintendent apparently disagrees with the VA General Assembly and VDOE’s efforts to strengthen accountability for expenditures by school divisions. Dr. Jones instead prefers to use a method she describes as “less stringent” [than the one mandated by the General Assembly].

    Dr. Jones’ less stringent scheme starts with the specific instructional expenses identified by our legislatures and VDOE (including the salaries for classroom teachers, instructional aides; librarians; guidance counselors; principals; assistant principals; the fringe benefit expenditures for instructional positions; and textbooks.

    She then pumps up her numbers by including the costs of the following additional wages, benefits, goods and services:

    Director’s Wages (housed at Central Office)

    Assistant Superintendent wages (housed at Central Office)

    Association Membership Dues

    Books & Subscriptions

    Bus Driver Field Trips

    City Retirement Benefits

    Clerical Wages

    Computer Aide Wages

    Computer Software & Supplies

    Conferences/Workshops/Travel

    Disability Insurance

    Educational Supplies

    FICA Benefits

    Food Supplies

    Group Life Benefits

    Health Medical Benefits

    Insurance

    Lease/Rental of Equipment

    Maintenance Services

    Office Supplies

    Other Professional Wages

    Overtime Wages

    Part-time Clerical Wages

    Part-time Specialist Wages

    Post-Employment Benefits

    Postal Services

    Professional Services

    Recreation Supplies

    Remedial Instruction Wages

    Social Worker Wages

    Special Activities

    Specialist Wages

    Substitute Wages

    Supplemental Wages

    Technology Supervisor

    Telecommunication Services

    Testing Materials

    Transportation Private

    VRS Benefits

    Workers Compensation

    By including these expenses in her definition of Instructional Spending, Dr. Jones has effectively removed these items from serious scrutiny during budget review time. This is exactly the behavior that the legislature intended to thwart when they enacted the law requiring VDOE to publish efficiency number.

    In prior communication with Dr. Jones, I expressed concern about the validity of the FCCPS 2015 budget because her budget presentation contains misleading data expressly intended to undermine an act of the legislature and VDOE.

  • Bill Royce

    Dispelling Myths Perpetuated by the Guest Commentator:

    Guest says: “Budgets reflect priorities…”

    Guest you are absolutely right budgets are plans that reflect an organization’s priorities. Much to be said here so let’s start with the U.S. News & World Report’s High School Ranking announced earlier this week.

    GMHS received a Gold medal in part because 90% of the students rated proficient in math on their final SOLs using the USNWR ranking scheme. So what does FCCPS do?

    Why the Director of Communications issued a press release to which the GMHS principal contributed much.

    A PRESS RELEASE? To whom and to what end?

    My friend, 90% proficient means 10% are not proficient and the students that comprise that 10% are getting ready to exit the system for which you stood up said you would be responsible.

    Stop for a moment and imagine what that child’s life is and will be like for the foreseeable future without fundamental math skills. Where are they going to work? How will they support themselves, how can they bridge the gap?

    Now, take another moment and imagine what the life of that child’s parents is and will be like for the foreseeable future because their child doesn’t have basic math skills. They have already spent a lot of money to live in the FCCPS district and now they need to give some deep help.

    GMHS needs an all-hands-on-deck drill for last minute damage control to this student’s life, not a press release.

    FCCPS has failed in its core mission and yet two highly paid professionals (GMHS principal’s annual salary without benefits budgeted at ~ $147,000 and Communications director’s salary without benefits budgeted at ~ $153,000) think that pushing a press release out the door is the right response when soon to graduate students have rated not proficient in math?

    What do you think is the fundamental problem is here (or do you think that is the correct way to manage and use the public’s money?

    Finally, imagine being a teaching professional working in an environment where the administration thinks that sending out a press release about how 90% of the smart students pass the SOL tests (big surprise there) but you know about the 10% who remain non-proficient? Does anyone thinking throwing coins at them will make it better?

    Justin?
    Other school board members?
    City Council Members?

  • Alison Kutchma

    As the Council goes to vote on the school budget, I want to say something about Teacher salaries: I stated this on another blog but I wanted to comment here as well.

    This is important because it seems to be the number one issue bantered about. Our
    teachers are our number one asset in the schools and they need to be taken care
    of properly so I support doing that. However, I honestly feel that the presentation of teacher salary discussions to me, feels a bit disingenuous because I don’t believe everyone understands how it works. I say that because at first I didn’t. Even now, as I type this, I’m using my phone a friend card to help me understand. If you look at salary charts you have to understand a few things.

    For example let’s just use Worker Joe as an example and compare him to a teacher so we know what we really are talking about when we look at those teacher pay salary charts.

    I am going to try to explain to make this apples to apples between Worker Joe and Teacher.

    Teachers and Worker Joe get a base salary. On top of that they both get benefits which is a real cost to the employer and a real benefit to the employee. It includes
    health benefits and retirement benefits to varying degrees. Those benefits are
    very different for teachers — so much so that we need to do some calculations to normalize this for that difference in order to compare properly.

    Difference One:
    Difference in Benefits:

    It’s called the loaded rate. So for Worker Joe if he earns 65K the average
    loaded rate, as it is called, is 1.25 which includes his health benefits and
    any retirement matching or whatever. So we take his “salary” and multiply it by 1.25
    to show what his annual compensation really is.

    Teacher’s however have a bigger retirement benefit, so their loaded rate, I believe is 1.40. On top of what a teacher takes home, a chunk of money goes into his retirement account which is guaranteed to be there. (I believe someone told me that if the market crashes and it shrinks – we make up that difference too but that’s another thing.) So we take a teacher’s base salary and multiply it by 1.4 to show their annual compensation.

    So that is one thing you have to calculate to normalize it in order to compare the two compensations but there is another.

    1.25 for Joe – 1.40 for Teacher

    Difference Two: Difference in Hours worked:

    Aside from all the extras hours and days people like the average Worker Joe actually works, let’s just call it 2080 hours in a year (40 hours times 52 weeks) which is what the standard is for a salaried employee.

    So in order to truly compare we need to figure out how many hours a teacher works. A teacher also works extra hours – schlepping home papers to grade and other
    stuff we don’t even know about. However, for comparison purposes we are going to ignore that just like we are going to ignore the extra hours put in by Worker Joe.

    I counted the number of days teachers worked last year and I came up with 193 days. (Someone can correct me and we can recalculate if I’m wrong.) If you multiply that by 6.5 (yeah we know they never take lunch but neither does Worker Joe,) then you get 1,254 hours in a year.

    So we need to also normalize the salaries for hours worked.

    In order to do that we take the 2080 and put it over the 1254 and multiply it by the teacher’s salary then the teacher salary would normalized for the difference in hours worked.

    So let’s do this:

    Salary comparisons:

    Let’s just pick a number. Say $65,000 just calculating first the loaded rates that are different.

    So for Joe 65K times 1.25 is really $81,250.00 annual compensation

    For teacher at 65K times 1.40 is really $91,000.00 annual compensation

    So 65K times 1.25 is really costing his company $81,250 for which he works 2,080 hours.

    Our teachers at 65K times 1.40 costs us $91,000 for which this teacher works 1,254 hours a year.

    So we can’t really compare these numbers until we normalize also for the hours worked. Let’s do that.

    2080 divided by 1254 (equals 1.66) times $91,000 the teacher’s yearly compensation in effect equals $151,060 in value compared to the loaded rate for Joe which is $81, 250. In other words if they both worked 2080 – all year round their salaries would compare at $81,250 to $151,000. 81 K divided by 2080 is an hourly rate of $39 per hour. 151 K divided by 2080 is an hourly rate of $72.5 per hour.

    Let’s take a few other salaries

    $40,000 times 1.25 = 50,000 for Joe Worker

    $40,000 times 1.40 = 56,000 times 1.66 to also normalize for difference in hours worked = $92,960

    $85,000 times 1.25 = $106,250 in annual compensation for Worker Joe

    $85,000 times 1.40 = $119,000 times 1.66 = $197,540 in effective annual compensation for teacher

    $100,000 times 1.25 = $125,000

    $100,000 times 1.40 = $140,000 but normalized for the hours worked 140 times 1.66 is $232,400.00

    That’s $125,000 for Joe and it’s effectively $232,216 for Mr. Teacher. I didn’t know that until recently. Did you?

    Since teacher salary is the number one budget discussion point I would be a lot more comfortable and think it is only fair to all the Worker Joes out here that have to pay these salaries we are asked to increase — to discuss this openly in normalized terms. Salary charts are so misleading without this normalized for us all to know.

    If the salaries are not presented normalized than the audience might be confused and think we pay our teachers only 40,000 or only 65,000 when that is not the case at all.

    And that $ 40,000 rate up there is effectively $92,960 not just some fictional number it’s real. It’s what we finance with our taxes. While Worker Joe, with his salary
    that is in fact $50,000, has to subsidize the teacher who is paid an effective annual
    compensation of $92.960 (And he works 2080 hours to do it.)

    I just want to put that out there because I’m really into communications with integrity – no smoke or spin. I understand this now and I wanted to share because I feel like most people might not understand this.

    As the Council goes to vote on this budget, I hope they consider perhaps that many who have pleaded for more money for teachers don’t even themselves understand this. As the Council votes, please consider every need in our City and remember it is funded primarily by Worker Joes who work 2080 hours or more for whom no one, in most cases, is providing retirement except Worker Joe.

    • c0mment

      What does this analysis get us? Shouldn’t we be comparing what our teachers get paid with what other teachers in the region get paid? There are plenty of professions (especially around here) that pay more than teachers, no matter how you normalize things. There are also plenty that pay less. So what?

      • Alison Kutchma

        It’s information that enables someone reading the salary charts to know what they are really seeing; to be able to calculate what we are really compensating our teachers. Accurate information is more useful.

        We can compare our pay to other districts but in order to do that fairly we would have to find one of equal size and population. Teachers like working here because of our size. They also like these great kids from really supportive and engaged families. Not far down the road school staff struggle with complexities and student profiles we do not face here. So you can do comparison charts but it’s not as straight forward as salary to salary. If money is the most important dimension of their job then they can always leave if other districts
        pay higher as is constantly reported. Interestingly, Fairfax County complains likewise. As with any job there are many factors to
        consider and money isn’t the only factor. Of course I want to pay our
        teachers well but the departure rate speaks the loudest as does the
        real reason they left.

        • c0mment

          What is the departure rate saying about why teachers are leaving?

          So how much should we pay teachers compared to other professionals?

          • Alison Kutchma

            I guess I’m not going to comment right now about departures but I am thinking about the pay issue. We need to pay them well but it gets very complicated very quickly because of the impact on the retirement program which we also pay for and the fact that they unlike other professions get their summers off. There is that hours differential over other professionals to which you are asking me to compare. 2080 to 1254 hours (extra hours put in by both groups set aside.) So it’s complicated. For those reasons it’s not easily an apples to apples discussion but it’s doable.

          • c0mment

            What I’m saying is, the school division needs to figure out how much to pay teachers. It doesn’t really matter how much lawyers, doctors, mechanics, chemists, or other professionals make or how their compensation compares to teacher compensation. What matters is what kind of teachers you can attract. Yes, there is some value to some teachers in working in a small school system so maybe we don’t need to pay our teachers as much as those in a larger system. Or, maybe there are some benefits to working in a larger system that we lack and it’s a wash.

            At the end of the day, we’re trying to hire teachers who are comparing Falls Church with jobs in other districts. You brought this up as the number one issue bantered around. My point is that the issue being bantered around is how much teachers in Falls Church make compared to teachers in Arlington, Fairfax, and other nearby places.

  • Bill Royce

    So Guest and School Board:
    Why does FCCPS have a director of communications on staff?
    And how is it that his or her compensation has increased from FY 2013 to FY 2015 by roughly $95,000, so that today he or she earns compensation of about $214,000? Who came up with that idea and why is it okay?

    This is the person leading the press release writing effort described above. Unbelievable!

    Susan Kearney, Toni Jones and Justin Castillo — you have told your neighbors that FCCPS can’t hire teachers unless it gets every dollar requested in the 2015 budget yet in the budget you have sent forward there is a $250,000 fund for “gifts” and a $95,000 compensation increase for a fellow who sends out emails and writes press releases?

    All the while 10% of GMHS students are rated as not proficient in math on their last set of SOLs before graduating!

    Let me be the first on record asking that you three step down from your posts, effective immediately.

    • sueFC

      Google: school district director of communications. This is not a job unique to Falls Church. With all of the incessant harping/criticism (some of it justified, some just…so….not), I’m surprised they don’t need to employ a whole department!

      • Bill Royce

        They have an enterprise the size of a large high school for goodness sake. The recipe to follow is:

        stopping running around saying we are great

        get a leader focused on the business of teaching students (for real)

        leadership by example, take responsibility, solve problems, don’t ever, ever lie

        push accountability to solve problems to the lowest level possible.

        forget press releases, colorful email and cute pictures on the website — focus on the business of educating students.

        95% of the pain will be relieved.

      • Alison Kutchma

        Sue: I don’t know if I’m included on your harp list but I will continue to “harp” if that is what it takes for leadership to first fully understand the problem; and then shift resources to address the gaps to support the children in our community that need our help the most. Most people don’t even know a) there is a problem b) know how to solve it or c) who these kids are…so until that changes I will “harp” away. There is joy obviously in The US News &WR data for GM. Unless of course your child is part of the other list. I’m harping for those.

  • FallsChurchCitizen

    While reading these comments is both entertaining and insightful, I doubt they will produce the desired effect. I wonder if a public forum (townhall, etc.) would be possible for Mr. Royce and Ms. Kutchma to engage with school board personnel to discuss and debate some of these issues out in the open.

    • Alison Kutchma

      I have written to the school board many times and I don’t hear back. I do know that it is probably a function of time to some degree — giving them the benefit of the doubt. They put in a lot of hours especially this time of year. As some conditions persist more kids graduate which is a shame for those that don’t get what they really need. Change does not come easy especially when years can be loss by si

      • Alison Kutchma

        ooops must have hit post :) Ok so let me continue:

        Change does not come easily especially when years can be lost by deliberate efforts by some to label advocates for the minority sub groups such as myself as complainers and negative factions. It’s ignorant but effective. I have been told I ask for too much. Until we have pass rates that exceed those of our neighbors – Marshall High School — I will continue. Our neediest kids have aspirations too.

  • Bill Royce

    I questioned a new, poorly defined line item in the FCCPS FY2015 budget for nearly $0.5 M ($440,000 to be exact) in several of my posts over the weekend.

    I have figured it out what it is – this is for the first of three payments for leasing 1200 computers for all GMHS students. (see Falls Church Technology Plan)

    But it’s not just $440,000 this year; it is another $440,000 next year, and another $440,000 three years out. Evidently, Dr. Jones thinks it’s appropriate to saddle the taxpayers of Falls Church with a $1,500,000 expense for computer equipment but has identified it only as “Lease/Purchase Additions.”

    Other line items entries in the budget identify computers transactions as either:
    * Computer Replacements,
    * Computer Supplies.
    * Computer Equip – Replacement,
    * Computer Equipment – Addition,
    * Computer Additions, and
    * Computer Software & Supplies

    But suddenly, this year and now, Dr. Jones has decided that a more appropriate
    description for the first of three payments on a lease for 1200 mac air books is “Lease/Purchase Additions”.

    Does anyone other Dr. Jones know what other expense are poor defined in the FCCPS budget?

    School Board?
    City Council?

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