True or False?
Unfortunately, there is a great deal of misinformation circulating throughout the community about Frederick County Public Schools as well as the school division’s budget. Below is some misinformation and/or disinformation the school division would like to address to help citizens know what is true and what is false. FCPS believes providing accurate information is important to enable all Frederick County residents to form their own opinions on matters involving the school division, including the Superintendent’s Proposed FY23 Budget.
The FCPS Cost Per Pupil Is About $19,000
Statements have been made that the Superintendent’s FY23 Proposed Budget results in a cost per pupil of about $19,000. THIS IS FALSE!
THE TRUTH: Frederick County’s cost per pupil in FY20 (the most recent information available) was $13,091 which is lower than both the state and regional averages by 1.1 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively. The Virginia Department of Education defines operational expenses that are included in the cost per pupil calculation and all school divisions report expenditures in a standardized format to ensure the comparative information provided annually in the State Superintendent’s Annual School Report is accurate. Cost per pupil is not determined by taking the total school budget and simply dividing it by the number of students enrolled, which is how some apparently reach the inaccurate $19,000 figure which is sometimes cited.
Budget Growth Far Exceeds Enrollment Growth
Statistics have been reported that insinuate budget growth has far exceeded enrollment growth over a specific period of time. THIS IS FALSE!
THE TRUTH: With regards to enrollment, an approximately five percent growth rate over the past 10 years has been stated but is not accurate. Enrollment as of September 30, 2012, was 13,066. As of January 31, 2022, enrollment was 14,027. That’s an increase of 961 students or 7.4 percent. In addition, the school division is beginning to see enrollment growth accelerate as a result of the Winchester Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Frederick County, growing at a faster pace than the rest of Virginia as noted in a recent report from Old Dominion University.
With regard to the budget, one needs to consider many variables when looking at budget growth over time. For example, a number of major capital projects have been completed since 2012 including the new Robert E. Aylor Middle School, Frederick County Middle School, Jordan Springs Elementary School and the FCPS Transportation Center. FCPS has also undertaken projects at Indian Hollow and James Wood High School over the past year. All of these projects cause the overall budget to grow. In addition, the federal and state governments have provided millions in coronavirus relief funds over the past two years which have caused the overall budget to grow. Inflation is also a factor to be considered when assessing budget growth. The reality is today’s dollar doesn’t buy as much as it did a year ago, five years ago, ten years ago, etc. These are just a few examples of the many variables that impact the budget which are often not considered when doing simple calculations regarding budget growth.
Audits of the FCPS Budget
Statements have been made insinuating that an independent, external audit of the School Board’s budget would uncover fiscal improprieties. THIS IS FALSE!
THE TRUTH: Audits are addressed in School Board Policy 715P. Internal and external audits of the school division are completed by a qualified, independent certified public accounting firm in accordance with specifications furnished by the Auditor of Public Accounts. Internal audits are done twice a year. External audits are done once a year. The school division’s financial practices are audited as part of the audit of Frederick County’s overall financial practices. In addition to the internal and external audits, all student activity funds are audited annually. Financial statements for all of the School Board’s budget funds as well as the student activity fund audit are reported publicly to the School Board’s Finance Committee as well as the full School Board.
Sale of the Former Frederick County Middle School
Statements have been made regarding the sale of the former Frederick County Middle School which insinuate that Schools Superintendent David Sovine, or members of the School Board, had a role in the sale or that the sale was influenced in some way by Dr. Sovine serving on the Winchester Medical Center Foundation Board. THIS IS FALSE!
THE TRUTH: The process of declaring school property as surplus is prescribed. In the case of the former Frederick County Middle School, Dr. Sovine recommended to the School Board that the building be declared as surplus after it was determined it was too costly and impractical to renovate. At the School Board meeting held on December 5, 2017, the Board adopted a resolution declaring the facility as surplus and it was turned over to the Frederick County Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors, not the School Board, approved the sale of the former school to the firm that purchased it several years after it was declared as surplus by the School Board.
The Dowell J. Howard Center Is Underutilized
Statements have been made that the Dowell J. Howard Center is underutilized and there are many classrooms in the building that are not being used. THIS IS FALSE!
THE TRUTH: Every space at the Dowell J. Howard Center is occupied and being utilized. In addition to the career and technical education (CTE) programs offered at the center, the LINKS and MAP alternative education programs for middle and high school students are housed at the center along with the student GED preparation and driver’s education programs. One of the reasons the school division is studying the feasibility of using the former Robert E. Aylor Middle School for a possible CTE Academy is the lack of space that’s available at the Dowell J. Howard Center for expanded or additional CTE programs.
Teachers Not Receiving Pay Raises Based on Years of Experience
Statements have been made that under the current teacher salary scale, some teachers are forced to go several years without receiving a pay increase commensurate with their experience level. Essentially, they remain stuck at the same level on the scale for multiple years. THIS IS FALSE!
THE TRUTH: Although there are a number of levels on the teacher salary scale which include teachers with different amounts of experience, all teachers on each level of the scale move up a level when a “step increase” is approved by the School Board as part of the budget process. For example, on the current teacher salary scale, teachers on Level 7 have a Bachelor’s degree and 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 years of experience are paid a salary of $54,280. Should a “step increase” be approved for all teachers by the School Board, all of the teachers on the scale would advance one level. All teachers on Level 7 would advance to Level 8 and be paid a salary of $55,660. The salary amounts associated with each level of the scale may also be adjusted by the Board through a salary scale enhancement.
Teachers Paying for Professional Development
Statements have been made that our teachers have to pay for their own professional development opportunities out-of-pocket. THIS IS FALSE!
THE TRUTH: Per School Board Policy 514P, and in alignment with the FCPS Professional Learning Plan, teachers are encouraged to participate in and/or select professional development opportunities offered by the school division as well as attend professional conferences with expenses reimbursed according to FCPS policy and regulation. A tuition reimbursement program is also available to staff.