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Lower Pay, Student Funding Has Teachers Going Elsewhere for Work: Professor

By Potomac Local April 11, 2014 9:30 am

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STAFFORD, Va. – School officials in Stafford County want to give teachers a raise.

Salary increases, to the tune of 3%, are a priority outlined in the Stafford County Public Schools proposed $273.8 million budget for fiscal year 2015, which takes effect July 1. To get there, the School Board is asking the Board of Supervisors for an additional $19.6 million to cover the costs of the raises, as well as other “unavoidable” increased costs mandated by the state to include rising healthcare, retirement, text books, and capital improvement costs.

“I know money doesn’t mean money doesn’t mean money in education, but lowering class sizes costs money. Quality educators don’t come cheap. That’s what makes a difference in education,” School Board Chair Nanette Kidby told the Stafford County Board of Supervisors.

First-year teachers in Stafford are the lowest paid in the region with a starting annual salary of $38,335, according Kidby. In neighboring Prince William, a county with nearly a $1 billion school budget, teachers start paid an annual starting salary of $45,370.

That funding gap makes it difficult to attract new educators to a county that boasts a low tax rate and a successful record of luring large businesses to set up shop.

“We are finding it very, very difficult to convince bright, young school teachers to come into your district. Your math teachers are going to Prince William and Fairfax County and there is not going to be anyone to replace them,” said Patricia Reynolds, a professor of education at Mary Washington University in Fredericksburg.

Reynolds’ students have examined the average cost per pupil that area school divisions spend to educate their students. They’ve found that Stafford’s $9,165 spent per student, when compared to $10,116 spend in Spotsylvania County and Prince William’s $11,984 per student, is a key factor that is driving teachers to work elsewhere.

In addition to state funds, Stafford officials will transfer $140 million of the county’s 2015 budget to the school division. That amount is $2.9 million more than last year.

“We are putting more local money into schools. That’s what the numbers keep saying. We are funding the schools at an increased rate. But if you listen to what is being put out there…you would think that were starving the schools,” said Rockhill District Supervisor Cord Sterling, who called for more accountability as to where the School Board spends their money.

Falmouth District Supervisor Meg Bohmke, who served on the School Board prior to being elected to the Board of Supervisors, agreed, and noted she has had problems getting information that she’s requested from the School Board on expenditures on things like the county’s International Baccalaureate program.

“If we can’t analyze the numbers we can’t make decisions,” said Bohmke.

The Board of Supervisors has invited the public to come speak on the 2015 budget at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Stafford County Government Center.

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