While the Fairfax County Public Schools' touts faculty expansion and teacher compensation, it leaves out its plan to cut the staff of the county's adult and community education program, then forcing them to reapply for half as many positions.
Last week, Adult and Community Education (ACE) staff received notice that 50 percent of their jobs will be eliminated. Only a hint of reorganization is mentioned in the proposed budget, which is open to resident comment in a public hearing Monday night. A reorganization chart is expected to be released Thursday, several employees of the department told Patch.
FCPS Superintendent Jack Dale presented the proposed budget to the school board Jan. 12.
"In an effort to provide the most valuable instructional model and manage the increasing costs of providing adult and community education courses, the ACE program is currently reviewing operations. The impact of this review will be included in the FY 2013 Approved Budget," the proposed budget says.
FCPS spokeswoman Mary Shaw said the program restructuring is necessary to make ACE "a self-supporting program going forward."
"The restructuring provides opportunities for better alignment with the school division’s mission of career and workforce readiness while creating operational efficiencies," she said in an email to Patch late Monday afternoon.
Adult and Community Education (ACE) is tasked with teaching the county’s adult English for Speakers of Other Languages program (ESOL), among other vocational and technical programs like drivers' education, apprenticeships, workplace training and certificate courses.
According to school documents, ACE has about 58 employees. The school system received $400,000 from the county to support the program last year, but much of its $10.8 million budget is funded by county agencies, local businesses and individual student tuition, according to the documents.
The proposed fiscal year 2013 budget for the department remains the same as last year’s amount of $10.8 million.
According to several employees, members of ACE staff were told each of them would have to reapply for the remaining jobs.
It's not clear how much would be saved as a result. Shaw said it would likeley depend largely on enrollment.
Shaw said the new positions will be advertised and competitively filled in May 2012.
In an effort to be more "fiscally responsible," Shaw said, FCPS is also re-evaluating its course offerings. It's not clear if that will result in fewer course openings for residents.
Del. Ken Plum (D-36th District), who launched the ACE program in Fairfax County, said both families and businesses would suffer from such a cut. Plum said though about 52 percent of the county's budget goes toward the FCPS operating fund each year, a majority of county residents don’t have children in school.
“The school facilities are used by taxpayers who don’t have kids in schools,” he said. “That in itself is a compelling argument for the importance of ACE. Public schools should never become a place just for children, because then you lose support from all the community.”
“In addition, ACE provides opportunities for those whom traditional education doesn’t work ... These kinds of courses are not available at Northern Virginia Community College,” he continued. “The business community would lose training opportunities for potential employees and consequently reduce the qualified workforce for available jobs.
, who served on the ACE board for three years, called the department's services "vital" and has requested the matter be put on the agenda for the Feb. 25 joint retreat between the Board of Supervisors and school board. He’s hopeful they can find a solution.
“The school board should be working with the Board of Supervisors to determine how we can use outside agencies and county human service agencies to keep these opportunities in place,” Cook said. “It’s important that our education system in Fairfax County isn’t just focused on the college-bound. We need to provide opportunities for all our students.”
When the Fairfax County School Board named its Springfield center the Plum Center for Lifelong Learning in 2009, they called Plum, "a skilled, effective, and highly respected director of Adult and Community Education," who "developed Fairfax County’s adult education program from a small initiative to a world-class program with unparalleled breadth and depth."
According to the school board’s unanimously passed resolution, "this center will serve as a classroom campus for adult and community education in order to meet the essential lifelong learning needs of the community."
That now remains to be seen.
“I know ACE has been losing money for some time, but it would be short-sighted to reduce or eliminate it in Fairfax County,” Plum said.
This article has been updated to include a response from Fairfax County Public Schools.
Erica R. Hendry, editor of Vienna Patch, contributed to this story.