School Board Hearing on Budget Poorly Attended

Why didn’t more people testify?

Screenshot FCPS Budget Hearing 05-14-2019

In 2019, David Broder testifies at the FCSB Budget Public Hearing. Viewers five years ago could see faces of people who testified.


Dr. Ricardy Anderson (Mason District representative) welcomed the six people who testified Tuesday evening, May 14, at the Fairfax County School Board Public Hearing on the budget. The time between the first speaker, Nancy Trainer, starting her testimony, and Arthur Purves, the sixth speaker, ending his testimony was approximately sixteen minutes.

Fairfax County Public Schools must depend mainly on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for revenue, and the Board of Supervisors held three days of public hearings last month. The only taxes the General Assembly allows localities that generate enough tax revenue to pay for local services are real estate and personal property taxes. Combined with changes in the operation of the school board’s public hearings, there may have been other disincentives to people testifying.

Compared to a similar public budget hearing in 2019, the Fairfax County School Board FY25 Public Hearing on the Budget, held Tuesday evening, May 14, saw a significant decline in registered speakers. On May 14, 2019, the school board welcomed 24 registered speakers, each allotted three minutes. The meetings' camera footage captured the speakers' faces as they stood at a podium. 

On May 14, 2024, the school board prepared to welcome ten registered speakers, each allotted two minutes, time cut by one-third. The recorded camera footage showed the speakers' backs as they faced school board members. 

Fairfax County Public Schools projected that the Board of Supervisors-approved real estate taxes set at a 6 percent increase, according to the County Executive’s FY25 Advertised Budget, would provide most of the division’s revenue for its FY 2025 Proposed Budget that totaled $3.8 billion, adopted Feb. 22. Supervisors reduced the tax rate to a 3 percent increase when it adopted the FY 2025 Budget at their meeting on May 7, resulting in the county transfer to FCPS being $89 million less.

Only six of the ten registered speakers showed up and testified.

Nancy Trainer said she is disappointed that a school system that emphasizes the data-driven classroom for its educators is seemingly not engaging in rigorous data-driven analysis in developing its budget.

Trainer added, “FCPS has not proposed nor adopted significant changes to policies and/or regulations that aim to improve workforce satisfaction but has not employed efficiency analysis to determine whether those staffing standards are effective nor has FCPS engaged in a root cause analysis regarding low teacher retention.”

Emily Vanderhoff, a first-grade teacher in FCPS and member of Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, expressed disappointment in the decisions by the Board of Supervisors and state leaders. She said the state budget passed yesterday and was eager to see how the final amount may reduce some shortfall. Vanderhoff suggested that the board consider “differentiated increases” as staffing shortages are going to be felt differently across different positions. She suggested “taking into consideration the positions most hard hit by shortages for stronger increases to help with recruitment and retention.” Vanderhoff also said to prioritize roles that directly impact students, those who transport students, serve their meals, and keep facilities safe and comfortable. She also suggested they find a way to raise the salaries of “the percentage of the lowest paid workers to begin to close the gap and provide a more equitable distribution.”

Durann Thompson addressed teacher shortage by making salaries competitive with nearby jurisdictions. Thompson said she was frustrated and hurt when she heard about the 3 percent pay raise. She added that she believes teachers are underpaid because it is a “female-dominated profession, hence the inequity.” She talked about teachers being champions of children and, like Rita Pearson, “This is how we do that by not just honoring teachers with words of appreciation, but by working together to fully fund schools. Because our students deserve better.”

Mary Ottinot urged the school board to create an office to protect children from trafficking predators.

Speaking as vice president for public education, Vanessa Hall asked that more significant funding be directed to those who are most vulnerable and underserved, like Title One schools' lower-income students, English language learners, and students requiring special education services. “We have so many smart, capable high schoolers whose poor literacy skills may make college inaccessible. Please don't shut them out from a lifetime of opportunities.”

Arthur Purves, president of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance, said this year's three-cent increase in the real estate tax rate is a six-cent increase due to the 3 percent increase in residential assessments. He added, “In education, it is game over by third grade. Children who haven't mastered reading and arithmetic by third grade are socially promoted. They rarely catch up and are condemned to lifelong poverty. Instead of fixing the curriculum, standards are lowered. … Freeze salaries until the curriculum is fixed.

If you wish to provide feedback to the Fairfax County School Board before their regular meeting on Thursday, May 23, during which the board is scheduled to vote on the FY 2023 Approved Budget, send comments to