Did you ever wonder how the 12 elected Fairfax County school board members decide on spending $ 3.3 billion and employ 24,391 people between July 1, 2022 and June 30, 2023?
Needless to say, the process is complicated, especially when it involves new funding.
The first step was when the budget staff, based on the general directions of the school board, prepares the January 10, 2022 Superintendent’s announced budget.
Unfortunately, in a bit of a misstep, the School Division staff included no funding for the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program, even though it was announced that grant funding for the program would be ending on June 30, 2022.
Between February and April FABB participants conversed with Dan Storck (Mt Vernon Supervisor), Elaine Tholen, (Dranesville FCPS School Board rep) and Megan McLaughlin (Braddock FCPS School Board rep) and others about the need for SRTS funding.
FABB also used social media to encourage parents and other concerned citizens to reach out to their School Board representatives in support of the program and a full-time position for a SRTS coordinator. And, as always, FABB spoke at an FCPS School Board meeting in support of funding the SRTS position.
By the May 10 school board budget work meeting, $100,000 for SRTS had been included in the budget. The short budget justification noted that the expiring 2022 grant only funds the program costs for seven schools including one elementary school (Brookfield ES), five elementary schools with preschools (Cameron ES, Fairhill ES, North Springfield ES, Saratoga ES, and Belle View ES), and one middle school (Herndon MS). Fairfax County, however, has 141 elementary and 23 middle schools and the program has relied on traveling fleet of donated bikes to support bicycle education in other schools.
We believe that popular support for SRTS played a role in the board’s decision to increase SRTS funding to $200,000 and one position for FY 2023 before the May 26 school board work group budget meeting. Subsequent year projections, however, were limited to $100,000 and 0 positions for FY 2024 and $0 and 0 positions for FY 2025. These amounts were authorized when the FY 2023 school budget was adopted by the school board.
Advocacy works! And, with the continuation of SRTS for one more year, we can expect more of our children to benefit from bicycling education such as is reported here: Going Places: Students at 33 FCPS Schools Learn to Safely Bike in Physical Education Unit | Fairfax County Public Schools.
Safe Routes to Schools is key to making bicycling better in Fairfax County, and it deserves full funding and continued School Board support for many years to come. We anticipate a need to continue our advocacy to ensure this happens.
How can you help make a difference?
- learn how local government works.
- get to know your elected officials.
- serve on committees.
- speak up at public hearings and information meetings.
- ask questions.
- share information.
- donate your time.
- support FABB!