FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (DC News Now) — Some Fairfax County teachers have raised concerns over the newest budget proposal from the school district — including worries about how veteran employees are incentivized to stay on staff.

The proposed budget does highlight several measures to increase staff pay, including:

  • A 3.0% market scale adjustment for all employees (an $80.9 million investment)
  • Step increases for eligible employees, a $58.2 million investment that comes out to an average step increase of 2.22%
  • $19.9 million for 1% retention bonus for eligible employees
  • $4.3 million for step extension for all salary scales

Some teachers have shared their appreciation for the measures, but also acknowledged they may not be enough.

“It’s simply not enough to keep up with the current rate of inflation,” Misha Chernov told the board at a public hearing earlier this week.

One of the teachers who spoke at the public hearing was Emily VanDerhoff, a first-grade teacher at Hunt Valley Elementary School. She is also on the executive board of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers.

“I’m glad to see [Superintendent] Dr. [Michelle] Reid prioritizing compensation in her budget,” she told DC News Now in an interview. “Ideally it would be higher, but I also understand there’s a lot of competing priorities here. The county does a lot of work to balance their budget, and so I’m grateful to see the investment.”

One of VanDerhoff’s concerns is regarding the salary scale. She said that there are 23 steps, although it takes about 30 years before teachers can retire. Therefore, for the last several years, their pay levels remain stagnant.

One solution, which is what’s being proposed by the district, is to increase the number of steps to 24.

But VanDerhoff said arguably a better solution would be to keep the number of steps the same, but increase the amount of money at the top.

“It honors the people who are sitting there,” she said. “They get a higher pay to honor their years of experience. But it also makes it so that the finish line does not get further and further for employees who are getting near the end of their career.”