School System        Budget                            less (from last year)         # Students



Fairfax Co.            $2.2 billion                     [$10 million ]                     169,000


Alexandria             $197 million                    $2 million                          11,225


PWC                      $ 745 million                   $57 million                      73,000


Loudoun                 $747 million                    $0                                    56, 170



Does anyone else see anything out of proportion here?


Let me know if there are updates on these proposed budgets.  I had to do some serious digging to fill in the blanks here.  Loudoun Co data is sketchy.  All systems have had serious cutbacks in one form or another.  Most have frozen teacher pay.  Many have increased class size. 


Main source (but not only):  Washington Post


[UPDATE: Fairfax budget reduction fund is probably not accurate.  I am trying to verify exactly what it is.  Anon suggests $157 million from another article. 

 Also see:



I also want more verification on Loudoun County]  

24 Thoughts to “Area School Budget Comparisons”

  1. Economy’s Impact on DCPS Teachers Compensation and Working Conditions…

    Teaching is always an opportunity for learning

    for teachers too. In surrounding jurisdictions the labor organizations

    used their negotiated compensation chips to cash in on some job security.

    What will DC teachers secure via the proposal …

  2. DiversityGal

    This is so awful. It does seem out of balance.

  3. Opinion

    It’s a math problem. In the FY09 PWC general budget, the school system gets 48.5% of the County budget (or, $430.5 million and change). I believe that the school system gets a fixed percentage of County General Funds. Of course, they have several other Federal and State sources of funds. I’m guessing that other County’s follow the same model; however, I don’t know from where this model comes (State mandate?) Someone out there probably knows; however, I have the general idea.

    That being the case, a County’s tax base drives the school system budget (as its largest source of funds) . When comparing counties, one could assume that more people results in more children a larger tax base (as new homes are built, businesses created, etc.) The variables are property values and the tax rate. Property values drive the taxable base; the tax rate drive revenues. The BOCS decision to effectively decrease revenues by (as I understand the current course of the BOCS) establishing a tax rate that actually lowers the per capita tax bill (while raising the actual rate, an anomaly resulting from significantly lower real estate assessments) IS a principle driver in our current situation. The math resulting from these two variables drives to the number you quote for the PWC School budget. This is clearly a political decision driven by Chairman Stewart, an avowed anti-tax proponent, and a majority Republican BOCS. The potential fix is to evaluate if we, as a community, actually buy into the Republican philosophy regarding tax policy or do we aspire for something more?

    While at first glance, it would appear that PWC is spending much less per student than other jurisdictions, a bit more examination is in order. To normalize these raw numbers, one would have to compare facility costs, salaries, expenses, etc. A dollar in PWC may not have the same value as a dollar in other County’s (I would be curious about school budgets in neighboring Counties to the south… why do we always compare ourselves to the North?) My guess would be that PWC’s lower ratio of spending per student reflects the general lower cost of everything in this County. The best case would be that because all of our expenses are lower, we actually provide a more effective education for our children. The worse case is that we are, in fact, a poorer county than our wealthy neighbors and just have to make do. The decision to keep the tax rate down is going to result in the elimination of many services that our County resident’s have come to depend on and particularly impact the most vulnerable in our Community.

    I would propose that we should focus on EFFECTIVE education vice EXPENSIVE education. Focusing on the money instead of focusing on the children is a diversion that results in grand School Systems headquarters and bloated staff vice technology in schools and higher teacher salaries as our School Board feels compelled to spend every dime of tax money at their disposal. Our budget “is what it is”. Let’s focus on the Children and get on with it. We don’t have to compare ourselves with other Counties; we simply have to do the best that we can with the money at our disposal. The real measure of a school system is student performance and the business processes implemented by a school system to improve student performance.

    If I were “king for a day” of the School Board, my mandate would be to budget “from the student up.” That translates into Education first (vice extracurricular activities which could be outsources to community based groups), teacher’s salaries, and school resources (particularly technology), After those are paid for, I would budget overhead from what’s left optimizing my “bang for the buck” by decentralizing and distributing administrative and overhead functions among the various school staff.

    If you want to see where your tax dollars go now, check out

    Those folks really interested in how we spend the money this year should check out

  4. SecondAlamo

    That works out to an average of $10,205 per student in PWC. Students that don’t speak English, and need additional support, therefore cost more on the average. One hundred students of illegal immigrant parents cost PWC more than 1 million dollars per year. Just wanted to point that out since it’s been a slow news year for illegal immigration topics, except for Fernandez ( I know, he’s legal). As a matter of fact, neither this blog or the other has been discussing issues centered around illegal immigration, which is a good thing meaning that it isn’t any longer the wedge issue. Now we can turn our attention to the fundamentals. It was like trying to organize a family picnic with the neighbor’s kids running in and out of your house uninvited!

  5. anon

    I read that article and immediately knew there was a huge typo or reporter mistake that is comparing apples to oranges. Fairfax has over $150 million in revenue decreases, not $10 million.

    From an earlier article:
    “Superintendent Jack D. Dale has proposed a school system budget of $2.2 billion for the next school year. It includes $157.5 million in budget cuts, which will result in programs and services being cut at the elementary, middle and high school levels.”

    From another article:
    “The school system’s revenue is expected to fall short by some $200 million of the level officials say they would need to maintain the same level of quality. ”

    The $157 million figure makes sense as it is about double PWC’s budget cut and they have about double the student population. Fairfax is asking for an increase in their funding to help offset that. They are also making horrific cuts to sports programs and staff.

    Basically every school system is in the same boat with massive budget cuts.

  6. DiversityGal


    Thanks for finding those articles. I thought that sounded weird. I had heard that Fairfax was making big staffing cuts, so the figure didn’t seem to make sense.

  7. Well Alamo, since you brought it up, let’s review how the Immigration Resolution is one of the many culprits involved in Prince William County’s spiral of decline.

    1) over-development leads to jobs and growth

    2) many of the jobs are taken by Hispanics, legal and illegal

    3) old-timers freak out because there are Hispanics living in their neighborhood

    4) white flighters freak out because they left Arlington or Fairfax precisely so they wouldn’t have to feel like America was turning into a multi-ethnic country.

    5) Bush destroys Republican party

    6) some Republicans turn to a network of hate organizations for an election issue

    7) Prince William County becomes the laboratory for election issue / social experiment: “what happens if we use institutionalized racism to scare off the Hispanics”

    8) The experiment works to some degree, but it isn’t only Hispanics who are disgusted with the experiment, and, those who leave the county take with them businesses and jobs. Local economy suffers.

    9) Those who leave abandon houses they were renting, and the owners of those houses cannot pay mortgages. Others who leave abandon houses on which they were paying mortgages themselves. Housing market plummets.

    10) National economic trends add to PWC’s economic woes, but as the chart shows above, because of the actions of our Board of Supervisors, the housing crisis and the recession hit us much harder than our neighboring counties.

    11) For two years in a row, PWC de-invests in itself. PWC gets a reputation for having a lower quality of life, particularly the schools, but also public safety which is also negatively affected by the Immigration Resolution

    12) PWC falls behind its neighbors in competition for new home owners and new investments. This makes recovery more difficult for us. When other counties pull themselves out of the recession, we’ll be last in line for new investment and new home owners. Schools and public safety will continue to suffer.

    13) All of the above further damages the county’s property values (who would want to come to a place known for such things). This further damages the tax base, which leads to higher taxes, less public services.

    14) We thank Chairman Stewart and sidekick John Stirrup for inflicting this tragedy on their constituents. And we lament the fact that the rest of didn’t speak up in time to stop it.

    15) We find out that only 1.6% of the crime in PWC is being committed by undocumented immigrants.

    16) The Citizen Satisfaction Survey shows a steep drop in questions that measure minority communities’ trust in the police department, which means crimes will be harder to solve in coming years.

    17) We learn from our mistakes, and hope that the rest of the nation learns from our mistakes, and rejects the Anti-Immigrant Lobby when they come knocking on Congressional doors with the same plan on a national scale.

  8. Moon-howler

    Thanks anon. Something seemed out of wack to me also. I am going to go in and make changes. Thanks again for finding it. The figures I was seeing just didn’t add up, yet they are there. I had to do digging Loudoun’s out. Not easy.

    Why do we compare ourselves to the northern jurisdictions? We are a bedroom community of Washington DC? For many years, Spotsylvania and Stafford were Fredericksburg’s counties. Why shouldn’t we compare PWC to Loudoun rather than Spotsylvania? Which county do we have more in common with? PWC was the fastest growing county in the United States for several decades. I believe Loudoun now stole that title.

  9. SecondAlamo


    Ok, now walk me through the scenario where the Resolution and 287g program weren’t instituted. Seems to me the foreclosures would still be with us, which is the brunt of our problems. The people dumped the houses because they couldn’t afford them. Just ask the ones who are still here. At least we don’t have people complaining about illegal immigration, and marching in the streets any longer.
    (Ok, there is that one billboard still!)

  10. It’s a matter of degree, and also timing, Alamo. If you compare the home foreclosure figures in PWC to neighboring counties, it’s staggering. They literally had to redraw the chart to fit PWC’s home foreclosure rate in. And, if you recall, the precipitous decline in property value in PWC started much earlier than our neighboring counties. This put us in a vulnerable situation when the national economic recession hit. We are plummeting much deeper than our neighboring counties as the figure above suggests.

    This is a big problem. Because these are the same counties with whom we will be competing for new investment and new home owners during the economic recovery that (we hope) is around the corner.

    As so many posters here have pointed out, we simply can’t have it both ways. If we celebrate the Immigration Resolution because it caused people to leave, we must also lament the Immigration Resolution because it caused people to leave.

    Forget the social implications.

    We ALL benefited economically when the new immigrants and migrants came here in search of a better life. And, we ALL suffered when county policy and a rancorous political battle caused these same people to leave.

    New immigrants were the engine that powered this county when it was growing and the market was booming and all of our houses were going up in value. When you remove a significant portion of your economy … when the stores close, when the jobs dry up, when the customers leave and MORE stores close, when the property rates plummet, and when budgets are slashed …. we all suffer.

  11. anon

    Opinion: I agree. When we have to cut, we should make absolutely sure it comes from the classroom (meaning teachers in the classroom, children and neccesary equipment) last. That means cutting central office programs, travel, professional enhancement programs first.

    Whatever figures are correct, the above chart is still apples to oranges at this point in time. Prince William gets a set percentage of the county budget. I cannot remember the exact but it is something like 57% of total county revenue. Fairfax and Loudoun do not have the same arrangement. Instead they have to come up with a budget, and go beg to their BOCS for that amount of money. They lobby for the BOCS to fund most of their budget. They do not get all of what they want. In PW, the BOCS gives a rate that they will not go higher than early in the budget season and the school system knows they’ll get 57% of that money. They in turn lobby for the rate to be the highest to make the overall pie larger which in turn makes their personal 57% piece of the pie larger. On top of that layer you add in the state which is not predictable and releases its numbers way late in the budget season. So all systems have to make adjustments a 2nd or 3rd time.

    The Fairfax school system (and the others) is essentially asking their BOCS for more slices of the total pizza and the Prince William School system is instead asking their BOCS to order a large pizza instead of a medium because then the schools guaranteed half will be larger. This totally changes the lobbying dynamics during the budget season.

    PWC schools are able to budget much closer to what they will actually get in reality. Especially since the BOCS was so concerned about the budget that instead of releasing a figure in Feb/March, they did it back in Dec so that everyone would have a fair warning of what was coming.

    So Prince William schools are currently writing a budget that will be exactly what the board gives them if the early revenue projections were accurate. They already know what size the pizza will be. And Fairfax will be going to their BOCS asking for $2.2 billion (i.e.) and then the BOCS will perhaps tell them no you can only have $2.1 billion. They will have to come up with another .1 billion in cuts on top of what they already have cut.

    We can’t really logically compare budget cuts between systems until the process is further along.

    The whole revenue share between the BOCS and PWCS has been debated. It has its pluses and minuses because you share the good years and the bad years but at least it is very predictable. Fairfax schools usually end up with 51-52% of the total county budget so they would love to have our guaranteed arrangement of 57%.

  12. Let me expand on this competition between the counties idea:

    Say the federal government or a large corporation decides they are going to break ground in the DC Metro area, they have their choice of Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, and also counties in Maryland. Just as we do when we by stocks or mutual funds, we base investment decisions on past performance.

    The same thing happens when people move to the DC Metro area. They have a choice among the various counties as to where to buy a home. One of the biggest factors, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, is the quality of the school systems. County’s that have a reputation for slashing school budgets have a more difficult time attracting the idea type of home owners: families who will stay for the long haul. What we get instead is the least ideal type of home owners: speculators who buy houses hoping the value will go up 10 years from now. Why is this bad? Because in the mean time, they rent the units out to people who are NOT staying long, and who will not be taking as good care of a rented house as one they own. Neighborhoods that have a lot of rental units tend to drop in property value over time for a number of reasons (crime, upkeep, etc.). And, I do I have to remind you what happens to school budgets when property values drop???????

    Our leaders have brought us into a vicious cycle and I’m not sure how we are going to get out.

  13. SecondAlamo

    Well, the way I see it, it was pay me now or pay me later. Granted, short term the people leaving has increased the economic impact of the national downturn, but had the past situation been allowed to continue, then eventually the area would have been reduced to a place were only illegal immigrants would want to live. The higher wage earning workers would have eventually left town, and reduced realestate values in the process. As it is we have managed to maintain a certain level of dignity as a community in that the quality of life has been defended such that people will move here knowing their neighborhoods won’t be allowed to fall into decay due to outside influence. Look at Woodbridge, no fight, no commerce, loss of everything they once had in the 80’s. It’s now a third world area that few want to move into, except more illegals.

  14. SecondAlamo,

    Price is determined by supply and demand. Many “high earners” left town, they cashed out during the building boom and moved to a more desirable locations. Did their leaving cause real estate values to drop? No.

    Re-think your logic and try again.

  15. Moon-howler

    What I haven’t figured out is where everyone went from these vacant houses I see everywhere and yet the enrollment in PW schools hasn’t dropped.

    I am thinking that maybe the families that moved for foreclosure reasons are just bunking in with their friends and relatives. So lets see….fewer houses on the tax rolls and same number of kids. Does that sound like a losing situation to anyone else?

    Those foreclosured houses are not generating any tax revenue as long as they are in limbo.

  16. SecondAlamo

    You said it yourself “moved to a more desirable location”. That’s what I’m referring to. As the area degrades so does the asking price for houses. As you said, supply and demand. Demand decreases, and there goes your price. So we agree.

    Good point. It doesn’t make sense that the people would move to the more expensive northern areas. Where did they go, but then the issue of overcrowding has subsided also. Go figure.

  17. anony


    PWC spends SIGNIFICANTLY less per student than the other jurisdictions listed.

  18. Moon-howler

    2nd Alamo,

    Not to sound like Pete Seeger, but where do all the people live? I am clueless.

    I think there is still a lot of overcrowding. Also there is a lot of investment property being sold. Investment property is rarely good for neighborhoods.

  19. “New immigrants were the engine that powered this county when it was growing and the market was booming and all of our houses were going up in value.”

    What history are you referencing WHWN? The opening of I66 was the engine that powered the growth in this County, turning it into a bedroom community for government workers and Yuppies seeking to escape urban sprawl. Immigrants were a part of that growth, many years ago. Now the NEW immigrants that you’re talking about, predominantly illegal, were a big part of the greedy engine which drove the housing bubble, whose burst was a significant element of the collapse of our economy…of which we have not seen the worst yet.

    Continue to live in that unrealistic world of your own choosing and, when the ultimate collapse occurs, enjoy living as a servant of the government, doing only as you are told, in order to survive. Take comfort, however, in the fact that so many others share your delusion, and will share in your fate, so you are not, and will not be, alone.

  20. AWC, yes, highways and infrastructure do contribute to growth. I had actually already thought of that, but, yes, good one.

    Now that we’ve cleared that up, I refer you back to the points I made above.

    Meanwhile, where do you get the notion that the new immigrants to PWC are “predominantly illegal?” Back in the real world, the shift in demographics you perceive is NOT an indicator of predominant legal status. We have to let go of this false perception if we are going to make any progress on the issue. Many people from many different countries have come to PWC, and we simply can’t pick and choose which national origins are acceptable to us.

  21. anon

    “PWC spends SIGNIFICANTLY less per student than the other jurisdictions listed.”

    Spending per student is never a good comparison of how good a school district is. DC spends 3 and half times what we do, but who moves to DC to send their kids to DC public schools? Certainly not Obama and yet DC spends something like $35,000 per child. If you look at it from a tax standpoint, Obama should be rallying for school choice because Sidwell Friends is a big bargain tuition wise compared to DC. Can you imagine the private school your kids could attend if you had $35,000 a year to send them there? So where does all that money go?

  22. Alamo, I understand the desire to leave PWC for various reasons (on some we’d agree on others we would not). But the truth is that long time residents are less likely to up-and-leave the homes we have purchased because we have a lot of money invested in them, and right now we can’t get a very good price on them.

    It seems to me that the majority of the people who left the county were people who came here recently, regardless of their national origin, and have payed less money into their mortgages, which were often of the “predatory” variety. If they were minorities, they had an extra incentive to abandon their homes and leave them to foreclosure.

    I’ll admit, at the time I didn’t understand the chain reaction this would cause. This is why I was not originally against the Immigration Resolution … not until it was too late. But what we have here is a vicious cycle where the negative reputation and mistrust in our police force causes people to leave, this drives property rates down, which hurts our tax base, forcing us to slash budgets, making it harder to get people to stay here or move here, which adds to the bad reputation problem, and so on and so on.

  23. anony

    anon at 9:11,

    Who said that spending per student had anything to do with how good a school system is?

    It just seems that we could afford to pay our teachers a little better or give them some kind of raise, considering that PWC spends less per student than surrounding jurisdictions.

  24. Moon-howler

    That per pupil spending speaks to supplies, teachers, library books, sports equipment, etc. Cheaper isn’t better.

    Special Ed drives up the per pupil spending a great deal also. Teacher:pupil ratio is critical here and there is a lot of wiggle room.

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