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Loudoun schools, county anticipating $11M funding gap

Loudoun County supervisors expressed optimism Wednesday at a potentially easy reconciliation process after Superintendent Eric Williams presented them with the Loudoun County Public Schools' $1.2 billion budget for the coming fiscal year.

Though the Board of Supervisors is at the beginning of its budget process, with the county administrator presenting his proposed budget next week, supervisors and School Board members are expecting around a $11 million gap in funding.

“So a lot of discussion and a lot of effort will take place over a relatively tiny percent of the budget, which is good,” Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) said.

Supervisors commended the School Board and LCPS administrative staff for finding a way to fund and implement universal full-day kindergarten next year.

Under the original proposed school budget, around 92 percent of kindergarten students would have had access to full-day kindergarten next year. Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) amended the plan to accommodate the kindergarten students of the four schools that can’t fit all students in full-day kindergarten at nearby schools.

This would constitute one full-day kindergarten class from Creighton’s Corner, Hillside, Mill Run and Lucketts Elementary Schools at a nearby school.

Universal full-day kindergarten has been a priority for the School Board and Williams. When Williams first came in as superintendent four years ago, 11 percent of county kindergarten students had access to full-day kindergarten.

Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) said she expected LCPS to take around seven years to implement universal full-day kindergarten.

“What LCPS and the school administration and the School Board has done for full-day kindergarten with those numbers from 2014-15 to now is nothing less than astounding,” Randall said.

Supervisor Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian) pointed out that nearby jurisdiction Fairfax County achieved universal full-day kindergarten after implementing a 10-year plan that involved trailers, whereas now Loudoun will have done it in four years. However, Volpe asked about the sustainability of universal full-day kindergarten.

Williams said while some schools are at risk for losing full-day kindergarten classes, staff is considering all options and will present the School Board with a multi-year plan to sustain universal full day kindergarten later this spring.

Another topic of interest among supervisors was the adjustment to classified and mid-career level teacher pay. When compared to Fairfax, Prince William, Arlington and Alexandria, Loudoun comes in last in mid-level teacher pay.

Randall questioned why the school system’s goal is to rank third of five when looking at mid-level teacher pay. Williams said this was meant as a realistic goal that LCPS could achieve and retain.

County government’s actual turnover rate and ability to hire is suffering because compensation compares poorly to surrounding jurisdiction, which is why the county has invested in a classification and compensation study to make changes. Loudoun County staff is making approximately 86 percent of staff in surrounding jurisdictions, according to the study.

Letourneau asked for data on turnover and hiring within the school system, because as competitive pay continues to improve and teachers and staff want to work in Loudoun, he said the board has to look to long-term sustainable plans.

“Rather than it just being we have to have this amount of money to keep pace with this trajectory, let’s understand exactly what’s happening with those work groups and what those difficulties are,” Letourneau said.

School Board Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles) said the school system is having more than just a retention issue. Loudoun is having trouble attracting experienced teachers, he said.

Tom Marshall (Leesburg) also said some surrounding jurisdictions have a more attractive retirement plan, which may also factor into more experienced teachers' decisions to go elsewhere.

County Administrator Tim Hemstreet will present his recommended budget to supervisors at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 14 in the government center board room, after which supervisors will hold three public hearings before adopting a budget in April.


Didn’t LCPS just buy $11 million worth of artificial turf fields and press boxes?  Coincidence??

ModeratelyLoCo, actually LCPS’ own data shows that experienced teachers transfer into LCPS from Fairfax at 3 times the rate that Loudoun teachers transfer to Fairfax.  Morse statement that LCPS cn’t recruit experienced teachers is knowingly false and disproved by their own data.

The school board has to come up with reasons to justify these exorbitant raises.  Neither the unbelievably low vacancy rate nor the transfer data support these raises.

I do agree with Bob that teacher level and pay should be based on skill and demonstrated effectiveness rather than the number of years in the system (longevity).  For example, under LCPS own system, if a teacher with 20 years of experience and proven to be an exceptional teacher wished to transfer into LCPS, he/she must take a huge paycut down to step 15.  This is because the pay scale is not set up to reward/incentive productivity, but to satisfy the calls of teachers unions.  How can anyone take calls by this school board seriously about recruiting experienced teacher when NO teacher can enter LCPS at higher than Step 15 even if they were the national teacher of the year?

Another Concerned Citizen is absolutely correct about the disrespect LCPS shows towards special needs students and their parents. Instead of asking for a larger budget to provide an appropriate education and services for special ed kids, Dr. Jimenez instead has cut all external providers off by telling them LCPS can handle all of this internally.

Obviously Dr. Jimenez lives in an ivory tower, because what she claims from her bubble in the admin building is not what we are seeing in the schools, who fight the parents tooth and nail to provide just the bare minimum to spec ed kids, using staff who are barely trained to work with special ed kids to begin with.

LCPS is failing our special education children by refusing to provide them with proper support services so they can get an education…which is somewhat important, you know, for kids to succeed in life. But LCPS doesn’t care about that.

@sammitch, Most kids could skip Kindergarten because they learn way more at home at an early age. Kindergarten was meant for kids to be away from parents. Loudoun has done exceptionally well without FDK(for at least 30 years I’ve lived here). Unsure what study found in 2004? Just look at graduation % and test scores from most schools in Loudoun. Sure there are struggling schools but that’s because those areas have AWOL parents. I’d prefer the money go to teacher raises, not extra teachers and space to handle FDK.

This LCPS bloat has got to stop!  I’m all for funding education for our children, but when will LCPS do “more with less”?  Seems the answer is never!

sammitch yes research has shown kids in FDK make greater gains in reading and math than kids in HDK however, those gains are gone by the start of 3rd grade. 2008 and a 2014 meta analysis both confirm that FDK is not worth the extra cost investment since the gains are short term.

Personally I’m glad they didn’t have FDK. I didn’t want it for my kids.

BobOEsq, interesting suggestions. It seems like there is a difference in opinion with one of the suggestions and some of the comments from the elected officials.

You suggested “eliminate the longevity scale which pays more than Fairfax levels to help teachers justify retiring on full time and teach part time making more than before”

The article says “Tom Marshall (Leesburg) also said some surrounding jurisdictions have a more attractive retirement plan, which may also factor into more experienced teachers’ decisions to go elsewhere.”

If Tom Marshall was quoted correctly, then it seems your suggestion would exacerbate this situation.  Unless there are some details in here I am missing?  Just wondering if you are able to shed some light on this since I know you and Brian tend to dig into all of these details.  TIA!

If Loudoun received a windfall in revenues (e.g. from a huge federal transfer or new business investment), should taxes be returned to their owners (taxpayers) or be showered on union employees?

The fact that Loudoun is flush from datacenter revenues does not mean the BOS has a right to just give it to their friends at LCPS who have been receiving 5%+ raises for years now.  LCPS is requesting an $88M increase or 4x their enrollment growth so they can give out 5-9% raises.  Yet, LCPS cannot interview all of its qualified candidates and has the lowest vacancy rate (0.6% compared to Fairfax 2.0% or Richmond’s 10%+) of any district.  This is just a handout pure and simple.

Letourneau pretends he doesn’t have turnover data despite being provided with the above data for years now.  Of course, does anybody believe Letourneau doesn’t know the answer to these questions when he campaigns with his good buddy LCPS chair Jeff Morse? 

Speaking of Morse.  Morse made knowingly false representations when he suggested LCPS had trouble hiring experienced teachers.  First, LCPS doesn’t look to hire many older teachers (research clearly shows effectiveness does not change after 3-4 years of experience).  Second, LCPS put out data last year that showed 3x as many teachers transfer from Fairfax to Loudoun as from Loudoun to Fairfax.  To suggest LCPS has “trouble” attracting experienced teachers is simply a lie.

Loudoun does have a problem attracting experienced law enforcement officers.  Loudoun has problems retaining law enforcement officers because their wages have been managed conservatively and prudently.  But the LCPS school board, and apprarently the BOS, has no problem taking funding that should be returned to the taxpayer and/or given to deputies who risk their lives and simply showering it on teachers who work 180 days/yr, start at $65K/yr, and can retire at the ripe ol’ age of 52 with a $50K/yr pension for life.  How do you like those apples?

Very glad our children did not have full day.  Happy to have them home where they belong.

Bob O, you should be on the school board; the members could use your common sense approach to budgeting.

Cut administrative bloat.  For example, the SpEd Department is full of ineffective staff that do not work in the best interest of the students.

What does the amount of tax revenue that is pouring in have to do with how much funding LCPS should get? If Loudoun received a $500M windfall, why should any of that be showered on LCPS union employees? It should be used to minimize how much the gov’t/BOS should confiscate (tax) from its citizens.

There is 1.8% enrollment growth so LCPS should need at most 3.8% more in funding (+2% inflation). Why would we ever give 8%?

Jeff Morse is a congenital liar. His spouse works at LCPS and is self-interested in the massive pay raises of 5-9%.  LCPS has a vacancy rate of 0.6% compared with Fairfax’ 2.0% vacancy rate and Richmond’s rate of 10%+. The salaries are more than enough to attract new teachers.  Moreover, 3x as many Fairfax teachers (those “experienced” teachers) move to LCPS than Loudoun teachers who move the other way. This data is from LCPS! Yet Morse just makes bald-faced lies about his own dog’s data and his good buddy Letourneau gives him a pass. I have sent this same data (from LCPS handouts) directly to the BOS the last 2 years.

Anybody on the BOS who considers giving LCPS anything remotely close to the $88M requested should be voted off.

Ignorant hillbilliys bring us back to funding FDK.

What makes you say that, more cowbell? I started researching FDK vs HDK and found that many sources cite this study done in 2004:

Here’s what they say in the summary: “As found in other studies, children in [FDK] program generally make greater gains in both reading and math compared to children in [HDK].”

“$11 million gap in funding.”
Easy to fix - 1 1/2 snow days not taken, 6 artificial turf fields not needed as a water well would work fine, 40 buses not needed as minimum occupancy levels enforced, 80 classes canceled as they have less than 10 (non-special ed) students in the class, stop replacing textbooks already shown to not be used by teachers whose lesson plans dictate day to day education, stop company car program, allow advertising on buildings and courier vehicles that travel Loudoun all day long, require PRCS to pay the established fees for using school facilities which THEY charge taxpayers for, eliminate the longevity scale which pays more than Fairfax levels to help teachers justify retiring on full time and teach part time making more than before, stop reimbursing LCPS employee travel outside of Virginia, offer teacher lesson plans for sale to other school systems and pay teachers for their intellectual property, collect advertising fees for the 86 or so buildings around Loudoun etc, etc, etc
Bob Ohneiser Esq.

FDK is a joke and waste of money.

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