A new report by the Washington Post details how Northern Virginia school districts, including those in Fairfax County, are struggling under the weight of an influx of new students seemingly poised to tax both the system and Virginia taxpayers to prop up a system that may be destined for decline.
The kindergartners of the Class of 2026, who finished their first year in Fairfax County schools Wednesday, constitute the largest and one of the most ethnically, culturally and socioeconomically diverse groups of students the county has seen, a fact that school system administrators say could pose significant challenges in the decade to come.
The Post seems to want to cast this as a ‘white versus other’ issue. Unfortunately, what it fails to do is point to anything that looks like a solution for what could be the inevitable decline in a once top notch school systems. Taxes are far from low in the area now and if resident see significant increases, it would ultimately only serve to drive away the very taxpayers they may need more than ever going forward.
Long an enclave of predominantly white, middle-class families with a top-class school system, Fairfax has experienced a dramatic demographic shift in recent years that is nowhere more obvious than in the county’s kindergarten classrooms. The white student population is receding and is being replaced with fast-growing numbers of poor students and children of immigrants for whom English is a second language.
More than one-third of the 13,424 kindergartners in the county this year qualified for free or reduced-price meals, a federal measure of poverty, and close to 40 percent of the Class of 2026 requires additional English instruction, among the most ever for a Fairfax kindergarten class.
“We are required to educate their children, and we want to. But there is a cost,” Velkoff said. “There is a cost to having these children in the system. . . . And I think the thing that is troubling is that the Fairfax County taxpayer has to take a disproportionate part of this bill.”
During the past five years, costs for English language instruction increased by more than $18 million, and elementary school teachers say they spend an increasing amount of their time on remedial education.