News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, October 22, 2009

School Budget Cuts Could End Language Immersion, Full-Day Kindergarten at Lake Anne Elementary and Elsewhere


Massive budget cuts
under consideration by the Fairfax County School Board could mean the end of full-day kindergarten and all elementary language immersion programs, including the Spanish immersion program offered at Lake Anne Elementary. Here's what the Lake Anne PTA is telling parents:
Foreign Language instruction at the Elementary level is quite likely to be cut from the schools budget. This means NO IMMERSION PROGRAM at Lake Anne.

In addition, Lake Anne's Art Focus School funding, narrowly restored last year, will likely cut as well. Our students would have reduced music and music instruction, reduced time in art class and no drama classes at all. Elementary level band and strings may be eliminated completely.

Class sizes will increase by one or two pupils per class. Services by social workers and counselors will likely be curtailed. And it is a sad possibility that teachers and aides will be laid off. (Teachers and staff did not receive any increase in pay last year and do not expect to see any increase this year as well.)

We have no idea how that would play out for Lake Anne. The enrollment would be drastically reduced if the majority of students currently enrolled in Spanish Immersion returned to their boundary or base school. Our children would lose out and the school would lose as well.

Preserving full-day kindergarten is a no-brainer, especially at schools that serve needy students. But language immersion programs are one of the hidden gems of Fairfax County's schools, something few public school systems nationwide have the resources or wherewithal to offer. Losing such an innovative program would be a tragedy for a community that's home to such a diverse population of students -- and to Lake Anne Elementary, which has seen its enrollment grow as a result of offering the program.

Here's how the PTA suggests people can make their voices heard:
* Attend the budget "Dialogues" hosted by Fairfax County and FCPS. The next one close to Lake Anne will be on Saturday October 24 (this Saturday) from 10 a.m. to 12 Noon at the Reston Regional Library and then another meeting on Thursday October 29 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The South Lakes High School cafeteria. You need to register for either or both of these events by calling 703.324.3291 or visiting Bring your spouse, your children, your support system and make your feelings known.

* Complete the BUDGET FEEDBACK FORM at or call and express your viewpoint at 703.324.9400.

* Letters and emails can also be directed to the School Board and to the County Board of Supervisors (our Supervisor is Catherine Hudgins ( at 703.478.0283.


  1. I don't actually understand how eliminating language immersion programs is going to save the county much money. These kids are being taught foreign languages by their primary classroom teacher, and they have to be taught by SOMEONE, whether that person teaches Spanish or French or not.

    I believe the intention in regards to kindergarten is to revert the entire county to half-day with the exception of the Title I schools. So in Reston, Dogwood would remain full-day but the rest of the schools would be half-day.

  2. Eliminating immersion programs would save money in that there would be less busing to immersion schools and there would be no need for differentiated curricula. They are a bit of an elitist type of program, which leads me to where the real reductions need to take place:

    I would love to see the ridiculous "gifted" programs take big hits. They are so wasteful of resources, and create huge divisions in student populations between 'gifted' and 'stupid.' Now I know the kids in the general population classes are not stupid, but they think they are because they're not 'gifted.' The kids in the program treat them that way, some teachers treat them that way and PARTICULARLY the parents of the kids in the gifted program treat them that way. And if you spend time with the students in 'gifted' you realize that many of them are just obnoxiously ADD...and far from gifted, but in the name of 'inclusion' the county has made the program a JOKE.

    Full day kindergarten is essential for those kids from lower income families and from homes where English is not the primary language.

  3. Actually, students who enroll in language immersion programs at schools other than their home school are responsible for their own transportation. There's no busing. There may be other cost savings, but that's not one of them.

    We had the choice between a GT program and language immersion program for our own child. We picked language immersion, as we thought it offered a more real form of "enrichment." Sadly, GT is politically untouchable in this county.

  4. Many children are not ready for full-day kindergarten. Half-day classes will give children time to be children before they are forced into the straight-jacket of FCPS curriculum demands. It's a good thing.

  5. Anon 2:34, I guess we know what kind of kid you have...

    Anon 3:52, it is not a good thing when a single parent has to work or both parents need to work.

  6. What is elitist about the immesion programs? They give kids from all backgrounds the chance to become fluent in a foreign language. At Lake Anne, the 2-way immersion kindergarten gives native English and Spanish speakers a good way of learining each others languages.

  7. What about the parents who don't want their kids in full-day K, but have no choice given to them by FCPS? There are a lot of people out there who think full-day K is developmentally inappropriate. FCPS could have saved a lot of money over the years by allowing parents the choice of opting-out of full-day.

    If parents want their kids in an institutional setting all day, they have the option of paying for daycare. Full-day K (for English-speaking kids who are not living in poverty) is just a convenience for parents, it isn't an academic necessity. Witness the fact that many of the schools in the county do without it just fine, and most of the schools in the county did not have it until recently.

  8. Anon 4:37 - 2:34 here -- no my kids weren't in either program, they were in private school. But I can see the neighborhood kids and what the program has done to the different families.

    Anon 2:46 -- I didn't realize there was no busing for out-of area immersion. They send the gifted all over the county with our tax dollars...but you're right that the program is politically untouchable.

    Re: Kindergarten -- I like the solution Anon 4:52 offers -- opting out of full day. Probably considered too difficult to differentiate?

  9. It's a little unclear to me from looking at the fcps website whether these changes (which are for FY 2011) would take place during the 2010/2011 school year or the year after. I'm assuming it's next year- does anyone know for sure?

  10. My kid goes to LAES. I can tell you that the language immersion seems to me to be a cover for full-day ESOL. About 1/3 of the kids in the program are already fully-fluent in Spanish because they come from homes where Spanish is obviously the first language.

    It reminds me about college where we had several native speakers in my Spanish class. For them, it was all about getting easy foreign language credits. I doubt that they learned very much from it.

  11. everyone relax! obama is going to have his school czar look into this matter and then they will inform us of what schools offer what programs and who is eligible.

  12. Anon 10:17 - My boss' child is in the immersion program at LAES and I can tell you, they are not already fully-fluent in Spanish. They actually opted to send her there so she could have the advantage of learning another language at a young age since they aren't in the LAES district. The county has immersion schools in other languages as well. I think Fox Mill is Japanese ... think it's only for all those local Japanese children that just need to get another A?

  13. anon 10:17- doesn't that mean that 2/3 of the kids in the program are NOT spanish speakers?

    I was considering sending my daughter to LAES for the immersion program when she's old enough, since she wants to learn Spanish and I'd like her to have the advantage of early fluencey (both my husband and I speak Spanish, but neither of us is fluent). I do with they had more launguage choices, though... I'd bet their would be a huge demand for Mandarin Chinese or Arabic.

  14. I propose all section 8 voucher programs are eliminated in support of language inmersion programs. Geez! No brainer, you get productive, talented kids ready for college and the challenges of the future. With section 8 you get nothing, just Cathie's elite society of future drug dealers and single parents with an entitlement mentality!

  15. Points -
    No busing is available for Spanish Immersion students when their base school is other than Lake Anne. Immersion parents outside the boundary drive or carpool.

    The savings projeted by the School Board would be mainly staffing. The class sizes get smaller as the students get older (attrition from families moving, students decided to join GT Centers, opting outof SI program for variety of reasons) - but they still require a Spanish Immersion teacher. Lake Anne mitigates this somewhat by combining classes (the 5th and 6th grade students have the same Science teacher and Math teacher).

    Not having full-day Kindergarten is not really a "Child Care" issue - it is a important remediation step for the most disadvantaged of school population.

    The Spanish Immersion program does not aim for fluency - my children aren't fluent, but comfortable with the Language. But study after study show that learning a language (any language) at an early age is a benefit for learning a language later in life (even a different language) and facilitate other connections (mathematics, for example) that use those same skills.

  16. Few more points -

    If a child is fluent speaking a language, that does not necessarily make them literate (reading/writing) in that language. And they still need to learn and be tested on the material (Science and Mathematics). Speaking Spanish is not a huge advantage in the Immersion program.

    The budget proposals are for next year 2010-2011.
    The first phase of this process is with the Board of Supervisors, who will determine how much money the FCPS will receive for that year, then the School Board has to determine which programs are curtailed/eliminated. Immersion is just one of many valuable, effective programs in danger.

    I wonder how many immersion schools would become Title 1 schools without the Immersion families. Not sure of the answer - or if anyone really knows.

  17. I went to the community dialogue meeting on Saturday at RRegional Library. There were many parents there very anxious about what will happen to Language Immersion programs. Bottom line is: EVERYTHING is on the table for budget cuts -- the exceptions are the things they would get sued for (i.e. Title 1, ADA, etc.)

    Although my heart was sad for those parents being so stressed, I reflected upon the thought that only a small percentage of the children in the county are served by LI programs. Yes, they're good. Yes, they serve an important purpose. But are they a luxury we cannot afford? If not, then we have to cut somewhere else. EVERYONE is in favor of cutting the budget unless it hits close to home.

    One of the school board members mentioned that Virginia's historical legacy of avoiding integration by closing schools and diverting funds to white kids shackles any point-to-progam fundraising. Sins of the fathers ... and all that.

    I came out of the session really disheartened. It is clear the County committed to a lot of things that we couldn't afford in the long term. Many of them are, on their own, GOOD THINGS.

    But, again, EVERYTHING is on the table.

  18. anyone concerned about the other cuts? The teachers havent had a raise in who knows when, with none on the horizon. Getting rid of immersion doesnt mean 1 student increase it means more, and oh by the way, get %100 on those SOL scores...

  19. C'mon now - cut the hundreds of admin staff and "instructional specialists" in Gatehouse and keep these programs. These costs are buried and somehow it seems that certain staff and "pet" programs are protected from cuts. They try to fool you claiming these admin positions are "school based" skewing the real portions of funding going toward these staff. I'm not saying that admin. isn't necessary, it's just bloated, still. We shouldn't increase class size yet again and cut teachers and truly benefical programs.


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