Many Needs in Schools, County

Testimony will highlight priorities for spending.

Chairman Jeff McKay said 79 people had signed up to testify on the evening of April 16. It was the third public hearing of the day for Supervisors. The hearing, with people advocating for budget priorities, would continue on Wednesday and Thursday. 

School Board Chair Karl Frisch related that the Fairfax County School Board and Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid requested an additional $254.0 million, or a 10.5 percent increase, from the Board of Supervisors.

“With a strong education, there is no limit to the success that our students can achieve, that every child can achieve,” Frisch said. He highlighted the importance of investing in education. The budget proposal aims to increase teacher pay and staffing to accommodate changing student populations. While the overall number of students is down from pre-pandemic levels, it is rebounding, and the students enrolled need more services. He said there is a 7.4 percent increase in students receiving special education services and 5.1 percent increase in multilingual language support.

“Nearly $47 million in budget requests represent the cost of enrollment growth … and of that, 84 percent of the support is needed for these populations that require additional support,” Frisch said. 

He called for increased state funding to address Virginia's underfunding of public schools, as cited in a recent Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) study. The underfunding results in $2,000 less funding per student than in neighboring states. “If JLARC’s recommended state education funding changes were implemented, FCPS would receive an additional $568 million each and every year from the Commonwealth,” Frisch said.

 James Quigley, chair of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority Commission, urged the board to prioritize business investment and talent acquisition. He described how, with county funding, the commission helped more than 17,000 local businesses connect with more talent and hosted more than 50 career showcases with 20 businesses in six Fairfax County middle schools. Through its partnership with the Fairfax Values Veterans Program, Fairfax County hired more than 5,300 transitioning military veterans and military spouses.

 Siobhan Chase, vice president of the Fairfax County Chapter of the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, opposed the proposal to eliminate animal protection police officer positions. She argued that the county's animal intake is lower per capita than surrounding jurisdictions and that animal protection police officers are animal control officers with specialized training. She emphasized the importance of partnership and transparency and challenged the board on decision-making processes and proposal integrity.

 Louise Epstein, who testified on behalf of the McLean Citizens Association, highlighted FCPS’ plan to spend $80 million on a new school, Dunn Loring, without adequate data.

 Michelle Jefferson, chair of the Community Action Advisory Board (CAB), addressed poverty in Fairfax County and urged the supervisors to invest in affordable housing and social services. Childcare costs in the county are prohibitively expensive for many families, leading to financial hardship and difficulty balancing work and family responsibilities.

 Heather Thomas, vice chair of CAB, discussed the county’s housing crises. She said the county's lack of truly affordable housing leaves many in poverty and without rental subsidies. Affordable housing means being able to afford rent and basic utilities, even if you're working a minimum-wage full-time job, without needing assistance for food, housing, medical care, or childcare. “When looking through this lens, we have no other choice but to admit to ourselves that the reality is that there is no truly affordable housing in Fairfax County,” Thomas said.


On Wednesday, April 17, union members united in the SEIU Virginia State Council took action at the Fairfax County budget hearing to demand fair raises, job protections, and affordable health care for frontline county employees. 

Maria Jose Padmore, a Fairfax County Health Department employee and union member of SEIU Virginia 512, addressed the Board of Supervisors and testified that the county Health Department treats residents well “with respect and consideration.”

“Today, we ask you to do the same for us,” Padmore said. “The way to do this is through making sure that we continue to be adequately paid. How can we progress if we cannot afford to even live? Every worker deserves to earn a livable wage, regardless of their preexisting conditions or the type of job that they do,” Padmore said.

Earlier that day, S 32Bj SEIU and SEIU Virginia 512 announced the launch of the SEIU Virginia State Council to build power and win unions for all working families across the Commonwealth. 

“Under the new structure, members and not-yet-union workers will come together to organize, mobilize, elect champions, and hold corporations and elected officials accountable.” 

On Thursday, April 18, home care workers, public service workers, allies, and community members planned to join airport workers, elected officials, and candidates for Congress for a march and rally at Dulles Airport in support of access to affordable health care and paid sick leave for airport service workers.