Proposed FCPS budget acknowledges concerns about teacher pay


Cedric Tchommo, Staff Writer

Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid’s proposed 2023-2024 FCPS budget is an attempt to smooth over the blow of inflation, ease the pay gap between teachers in other states, convince new teachers to come to FCPS and retain already working teachers. The budget proposes an increase of 2.22% for eligible employees, a 3% market scale adjustments for all employees, a $19.9 million for 1% retention bonus for eligible employees and a $4.3 million for step extension for all salary scales. A low salary, a high cost of living and an inflexible schedule is causing a large number of teacher vacancies in Northern Virginia, contributing to the reasons the budget was proposed. 

“I do think that salary is a significant factor in why teachers leave,” 27-year social studies teacher John Downes said. “Fairfax County teachers have good benefits, and, depending on when you start teaching, retirement. There are other factors that have teachers leaving the profession. Many leave because of the immense pressures that they feel in their responsibilities as teachers. The teaching profession is getting harder and harder with more and more expectations placed upon teachers from students, parents, and leadership in the county.”

Though FCPS school’s teacher salary averages are some of the highest in Northern Virginia, having many schools ranked near the top of salary according to InsideNova, the high cost of living and inflation are factors in nullifying this.

“It is a fact that the salary teachers get does not match the cost of living in Northern Virginia,” Downes said. “Basic math shows that this area is massively expensive to live in, and our cost of living increases are usually around at little more than 2-3%, much lower than the increased costs of living which are around 8%. Inflation is horrific right now, and our teacher salaries have not kept up with the cost of living and inflation. Many teachers in this county have second or third jobs to make ends meet.”

Virginian teachers make 32.7% less than other college-educated workers according to a report by Economic Policy Institute, making $53,933 compared to $60,160 for other professions. 

“It’s a profession historically dominated by women and women are paid considerably less than men in our society, ” special education teacher Kevin Hickerson said. “You also take into account that people believe that teachers are ‘saviors’ and should be doing this work on the cheap because they want what’s best for kids. Our leaders and elected officials have taken that generosity for granted.”

The budget isn’t enough, some say, as the money is considered to not be enough and it doesn’t match the rise of inflation. However, the efforts being made to improve teacher salaries by Dr. Reid are not going unnoticed.

You also take into account that people believe that teachers are ‘saviors’ and should be doing this work on the cheap because they want what’s best for kids. Our leaders and elected officials have taken that generosity for granted.

— Kevin Hickerson

“I think she is in a tough spot and is doing the best she can in the current environment,”  Hickerson said. “The Board of Supervisors are the ones who fund 73% of our budget and they need to increase funding for all public employees like the county employees, fire, police and, of course, educators.”

The limitations on the salary of an FCPS teacher concerns aspiring teachers as well as current ones. Senior Anushka Chivaluri is an aspiring teacher and understands the problems of her profession.

“I recognize that I am going into a field where the pay famously does not reflect the effort of its workers,” Chivaluri said. “As the chief technical officer of my robotics team, I am surrounded by future engineers and it is a constant reality check for me to realize that I will be paid far less in my field for working just as hard as my peers in tech-related positions. As the cost of living is on the rise, the disparity between teacher pay and other occupations worries me.”

However, many aspiring teachers born in FCPS want to stay there, despite their concerns. Their familiarity and appreciation for the schools attracts them, as does the mostly good reputation the district has. FCPS is ranked sixth by Niche for the best school districts in Virginia.

“My fellow aspiring teachers and I agree that northern Virginia is definitely a good starting place for us as most of us grew up here,” Chivaluri said. “I personally am enticed by the idea of working in FCPS because I like the positive, encouraging environment that these schools create for both students and teachers.”

The budget will be approved on May 25 by the FCPS School Board, and will begin on July 1.

“The budget will be adopted,” Hickerson said. “It more than likely will have a couple of tweaks here and there but that happens in an over 3 billion dollar budget.”