Proposed raise creates cautious optimism among teachers

Without+raises%2C+FCPS+staff+will+continue+to+face+a+challenging+pay+structure

David Achter

Without raises, FCPS staff will continue to face a challenging pay structure

As the entire nation grapples with a teacher shortage, schools are becoming more desperate to find teachers – a problem Fauquier County is currently facing, with 47 vacant positions. Hiring is also only half of the battle: Teachers must also want to stay. The majority of FCPS employees leave within 10 years, and according to a survey done by FCPS, besides retirement, the main reason staff leave is compensation. A raise proposed by Superintendent Dr. Jeck hopes to rectify this by adjusting staff pay to a more appealing value, with a guaranteed 5% raise for all positions and further increases to adjust for the county’s most underpaid positions. The average teacher could see a 13% raise.
According to the Virginia Department of Education, Fauquier County Public Schools is below the state and national average for average teacher compensation by about five thousand dollars annually, and further behind some nearby counties. Neighboring Prince William and Loudoun counties are far ahead of Fauquier in teacher compensation, although Fauquier still pays more compared with counties such as Culpeper and Warren. In the opinion of Jeck: “Our problem is, of course, that any teacher here can go thirty miles up the road and make ten thousand dollars more a year.” The proposed 5% raise applies to all positions in FCPS and is not limited to just teachers. Additional raises are proposed for the county’s more underpaid teachers compared with the market, identified as those with Bachelor’s degrees and many years of experience. The 2023 Virginia Governor’s budget also proposes an additional 5% raise, meaning the average teacher’s salary could increase by 18% over the course of 2 years, assuming all measures were approved.
The raise could also improve the quality of new teachers Fauquier County hires. Unattractive pay typically means many individuals will only choose Fauquier as a last resort, and seek higher-paying school districts. Social studies teacher Charles Lewis said, “…so then who will come here? Teachers that can’t get a job anywhere else, so now you get what you pay for.”
After speaking with a few teachers, an impression of cautious optimism is given. English teacher Robin Frost felt that the proposed raise is more necessary than it is kind: “So I think the county owes us because we were there when they needed us, and when they were having trouble, right? Like, we tolerated it, we put up with that [pay scale] freeze, to the detriment of our own financial well-being.” She also wanted to stop the somewhat divisive attitude about raises: “It’s just like we’ve been created as the other, you know? So there’s this conflict between us-vs them when we should be a team.”
According to the Fauquier Times, the proposed raise is causing concern in the community about how it will be paid for and how taxes will be impacted. Jeck said: “That’s really up to the Board of Supervisors, but the majority of the money that we’re using for these pay increases are coming from the state.” That hasn’t stopped concern in the community about an increase in property taxes. To solve this, a hiring freeze for vacant positions was suggested by Jeck: “I think the impact will be minimal because in the last couple years enrollment went way down as a result of covid…And the fact is we have 47 teacher vacancies right now, that seems like a lot, but it’s about two per school.”
Despite the potential financial issues, Jeck, Frost, and Lewis agree these raises are necessary. Jeck stressed that: “You are never going to have a good school system unless you have good teachers. I mean, anything you do at my level really doesn’t matter if you don’t have good people to implement it.” Lewis emphasized, “You should want to invest in your children as well, and this is a part of it…I know people don’t want their taxes raised, but at what cost?”