Stafford schools (budget)

Stafford County Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Kizner 's budget for fiscal 2021 asks for a 5 percent increase in county funding. 

Stafford Public Schools Superintendent Scott Kizner's proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 seeks an additional $6.8 million in funding from the county. 

That is an increase of 5.4 percent over the $127.5 million the county provided to the schools for the current fiscal year. 

Kizner presented his proposed budget, which totals $329.3 million with federal and state funding included, to the School Board Tuesday evening. He said it focuses on promoting "equity and excellence for all students." 

The superintendent said in an interview with The Free Lance–Star earlier Tuesday that his budget is designed to meet needs created by "accelerating" enrollment in the school division over the past five years, as well as to take steps towards meeting the social and behavioral needs of students. 

The school division is projecting an average daily enrollment of 30,050 students next school year, which is 699 more than was budgeted for this year. 

Kizner's proposed budget includes 36 additional general education teachers—seven in elementary school, 16 in middle school, 12 in high school and one in alternative education—which is necessary to keep class sizes down, he said.

It includes eight teachers to expand middle-school course offerings in world languages and fine arts and also directs funds to increase career technical education offerings—specifically in computer science and the Teach for Tomorrow program—at the high school level.

To meet new standards of quality approved in October by the state Board of Education and the recommendations of Gov. Ralph Northam's budget, Kizner's budget includes funding for 14 new school social workers and eight teachers for English learners. 

The budget would also fund 10 new full-time bus drivers.

All school division staff would receive a 3 percent pay increase under Kizner's budget and funds would also be directed to support the recommendations of a 2018 support staff compensation study and bring all employees to the minimum market range. 

The budget also seeks to condense the teacher salary scale. According to information shared Tuesday, it takes longer for teachers in Stafford to reach the top of the salary scale than it does in neighboring Prince William County—which is the school division teachers most often leave Stafford for—and other divisions further north.

Prince William's salary scale tops out at 32 years, Loudoun's at 30 and Fairfax's at 24. Stafford's, however, tops out at 39 years. 

Kizner said his proposed budget for next fiscal year will condense the scale to 36 years and is the beginning of a three-year commitment that will further condense it to 30 years. This would result in an additional raise of between 0.2 and 8 percent in fiscal year 2021 for those impacted. 

The budget also directs funds to support continuing education and tuition assistance for teachers.

"This budget is focused on meeting the needs of every child and to do that, we have to have the best staff," Kizner said. "That includes supporting the professional development of our staff."

School Board Chair Holly Hazard said Kizner's budget "responds to the reality of Stafford."

"Stafford is growing and there is no end to that trend," she said. "Stafford is attractive to young families. A thoughtful school budget recognizes that they are a significant part of our population and if we want their children to get the best education, there is a cost."

The board will hold a work session on the budget Saturday morning at Stafford Hospital. 

Adele Uphaus–Conner: 540/735-1973

auphaus@freelancestar.com

@flsadele

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