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Stephanie Lundquist-Arora
Stephanie Lundquist-Arora
March 19, 2024 - 4 minutes
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Opinion

Fairfax County Public Schools deceives taxpayers with per-pupil spending and legal expenses

Stephanie Lundquist-Arora is a contributor for the Washington Examiner, a mother in Fairfax County, Virginia, an author, a member of the Coalition for TJ, and the Fairfax chapter leader of the Independent Women’s Network. This piece originally appeared on Washington Examiner.


As Fairfax County Public Schools increases its budget to $3.8 billion, up 8.6% from fiscal 2024, taxpayers have been put on notice that they will be hit with more property tax increases. Fairfax County residents’ property tax bills are expected to increase again by an average of $524 per household in 2025.

Meanwhile, district administrators are gaslighting taxpayers about per-pupil spending. On March 6, they sent an email to parents complaining that Virginia’s public school districts receive less state funding than public schools in other states. That might be intended to distract us from the fact that per-pupil spending in Fairfax County is substantially higher than the national average. In the 2024 budget, the annual cost per K-12 public school pupil in Fairfax County was $19,795. The national per-pupil average the same year was $12,612.

While Fairfax County’s school board members and administrators would like to focus on why other states in the South Atlantic region allocate 4% more in funding for their public schools, the better and more pressing question is why our district’s per-pupil spending is so exorbitantly high. In fact, the per-pupil average cost is higher at Fairfax County’s public schools than the tuition at many of its higher-performing private schools. And the taxpayer’s return on investment is questionable at best.

Fairfax County used to be known for its reputable schools. But in a recent survey, the district didn’t even make the top 100 most desired schools in the nation. FCPS ranked No. 128, falling behind both Loudoun County Public Schools, No. 60, and Arlington Public Schools No. 93. Standardized testing also proves the increases in per-pupil spending are not yielding better academic proficiency.

But let’s take a look at the district’s legal costs over time. From fiscal 2021 to fiscal 2024, the district has spent about $26 million just in legal fees. In fiscal 2024, the adopted budget allocated $1.975 million for legal fees, but the revised spending ended up being $7.974 million. In the fiscal 2025 adopted budget, the district gaslights us with a repeated $1.975 million allocation for legal fees, but it likely will be much higher.

The district’s legal fees are astronomical and contribute to the swelling per-pupil spending. They are also a direct consequence of our school board members and administrators prioritizing leftist politics above fundamental education, parental preferences, and the law.

The district, for example, was forced to pay for its decision to close our schools for a year and a half after bowing to pressure from the teachers’ unions. A federal investigation found that FCPS failed to provide thousands of disabled students with the educational services they needed. The district also had to retain legal representation for its decision to ignore Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R-VA) Executive Order Two and force students to continue to wear masks.

FCPS administrators and school board members also have blatantly ignored the Youngkin administration’s Model Policies stipulating that, among other things, bathroom use in schools is based on sex rather than gender and that preferred pronoun use cannot be required. America First Legal announced this month that it is suing the district for religious discrimination and the violation of free speech rights. It seems that with its repeated willful violation of the law, FCPS will be spending at least as much on lawsuits in fiscal 2025 as it did the previous year.

The district’s bias incident reporting system is also ripe for a legal challenge. These types of snitch lines allow students to report classmates and teachers for perceived intended and unintended incidents of biases. Bias incident reporting systems chill free speech and are facing many legal challenges across the country.

FCPS also had to retain counsel for its blatant racism against Asian students in admissions processes to the county’s magnet school, Thomas Jefferson High School. School board members moved from a merit-based system to an equity-based admissions system to intentionally reduce the number of Asians in the school. Federal Judge Claude Hilton notably ruled that the new admissions system intended to promote racial balancing was “patently unconstitutional.” The district pressed on legally and fought for its racism against students of Asian descent, incurring even more legal fees in the process.

There are many problems with FCPS’s ballooning budget. Taxpayers should note that the high legal fees among those problems are symptomatic of the district’s dysfunctional priorities. Leftist politics shouldn’t be valued above educating our children.

Stephanie Lundquist-Arora
Stephanie Lundquist-Arora
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