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Chesterfield County Schools Better, Cheaper than Fairfax?

Chesterfield County Schools Better, Cheaper than Fairfax?

FCTA board members talk about another Virginia public school system. Read both viewpoints!

To FCTA Board Members:

My oldest daughter provided me with some statistics on the Chesterfield County budget, taxes, and school data. This county (about 320,000 total residents) is less than 1/3 the population of Fairfax County (about 1.1 million) although in size, it is about the same size of around 400 square miles as is Fairfax County. It is located southwest of and borders Richmond, Va. My daughter compares her schools and their education with her sisters in the North. There is little comparison as she says that Chesterfield Co. schools are far superior in teaching and learning of various subjects. She has four children in the Chesterfield Co. public school system.

Chesterfield Co. has an overall budget in FY14 of $1.177 billion. That breaks down to $569 million for schools and $608 million for General Government. Compare that to Fairfax Co. which has a budget of $1.9 billion for schools or a grand total of $2.5 billion for schools and $1.7 billion for General Government. Fairfax County has around 185,000 students compared to Chesterfield, which has around 59,000 students in their 62 schools. So Chesterfield has about 32% of the students of Fairfax Co. If you compare the budgets, Chesterfield Co. has about 30% of the school budget of Fairfax using the $1.9 billion for Fairfax. If you use the $2.5 billion for Fairfax, you would have Chesterfield School system at about 23% of the Fairfax Co. school system budget. Using the "pie charts" from both counties, Fairfax schools use 53% of the total General Government Funds Disbursement and Chesterfield uses almost 50% for schools of their overall General Funds Disbursement.

The per child cost in Chesterfield County is $9,271 versus Fairfax County at $13,680 according to last year's school budget figures. According to Chesterfield County, "it is among the country's 100 largest school systems but keeps cost low. In 2010, out of 132 school divisions in Virginia, Chesterfield ranks 123rd lowest in total per-pupil costs" END OF QUOTE. You can check this by clicking on: mychesterfieldschools.com. It is an arduous task to decipher a breakdown of school budget costs between the two counties. For example, Chesterfield County overall school budget includes 10% of the school budget as "debt and capital improvement program reserve" whereas I don't know if Fairfax County includes this in their overall school budget or whether it is separated into another budget. I will have to ferret this out with the Fairfax school officials. From these figures above, it appears that Chesterfield County spends somewhat less on their school system than Fairfax County.

The General Government budget of Chesterfield of $606 million is about 35% of Fairfax County's general government budget of $1.7 billion. The overall grand total of Fairfax County's budget is around $7 billion. The real estate tax in Chesterfield County is 95 cents on a $100 of assessment versus Fairfax County's rate of $1.10.

According to the statistics from Chesterfield County, and I quote, "87% of their students graduate on time outperforming their peers across Virginia". ... "All Chesterfield public schools are accredited and students continue to perform well on SOL tests. In fact, Chesterfield students achieved perfect scores on 9,178 SOL tests in 2010-2011. For three of the past five years, the school system has met the objectives of No Child Left Behind and made adequate yearly progress. More than 4,400 students graduated in 2011, 57% earned advanced diplomas, and 90% planned to attend two or four year college. The class of 2011 earned $22.8 million in scholarships. Chesterfield schools are extremely effective, ranking the school division third among 15 of Virginia's largest localities." END OF QUOTES.

We should use some of these statistics at our Tuesday night school meeting.

  -- Chuck McAndrews


An opposing viewpoint

Chuck,

When I compared school districts in 2009, I found the following SOL results for the school year 2007-2008 (at 12th grade). The numbers show the % of students passing (or failing). Arthur says that Adv is a C and Prof is a D.


                                                             Adv   Prof   Fail
Chesterfield County  English: Reading   White Students     56.66  40.88   2.45
Fairfax County       English: Reading   White Students     67.23  30.83   1.94
Chesterfield County  Mathematics        White Students     25.97  65.75   8.28
Fairfax County       Mathematics        White Students     38.37  57.53   4.1

Chesterfield County  English: Reading   Black Students     23.12  66.9    9.98
Fairfax County       English: Reading   Black Students     31.02  57.93  11.05
Chesterfield County  Mathematics        Black Students      9.57  71.67  18.77
Fairfax County       Mathematics        Black Students     14.14  69.03  16.83

Chesterfield County  English: Reading   Hispanic Students  27.65  61.29  11.06
Fairfax County       English: Reading   Hispanic Students  30.38  62.43   7.19
Chesterfield County  Mathematics        Hispanic Students  13.46  72.22  14.32
Fairfax County       Mathematics        Hispanic Students  15.49  70.68  13.83

The American Community Survey shows that the mean 2012 income was $85,634 in Chesterfield County and $138,039 in Fairfax County. The median price for a four-bedroom home is $240,000 in Chesterfield County as compared to $543,607 in Fairfax County. If you take the cost per student in the two counties, the ratio of Fairfax to Chesterfield is 1.48. The mean household income ratio is 1.61 and the median home price, 2.27. So the cost of living in Fairfax County is higher than in Chesterfield. The ratio is greater than the ratio of the cost per student. The student performance in Chesterfield is lower than in Fairfax County. I think the comparison, if done fairly, is a losing argument.

  -- Fred Costello