Showing posts from March, 2015

School Funding: Who Has the Responsibility?

When it comes to public school funding in Prince William County, there is plenty of finger pointing to go around. Stuck in the middle are the children, teachers, and taxpayers. 
- The School Board points to both the Board of County Supervisors and General Assembly for not funding enough.
- The Board of County Supervisors points to the General Assembly for not funding its fair share.  - The General Assembly points to the Board of County Supervisors for not funding its fair share.
Are you dizzy yet?
Since 2009, neither state nor local revenues have kept pace with growth of the student population in Prince William County. Indeed, both the General Assembly and the BOCS should prioritize public school funding. 
Virginia is the ninth wealthiest state in the nation for per-capita personal income, yet ranks 41st in the nation for state funding of K-12 public schools according to the CQ State Fact Finder Series. This is a drop from 38th in the nation. 
State funding of public schools is based …

Thoughts About Loudoun County's Full-Funding of its Schools and What it Means for Prince William County

The Washington Post reports today that "for the first time in more than a decade, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors is poised to fully fund the operating budget proposed by the county school board." This is an excellent development and a victory for school staff, students, and parents in Loudoun County, where quite the bold budget was presented to further lower class sizes and expand full-day kindergarten earlier this year.

However, comparing Prince William County to Loudoun County is not exactly is a comparison of apples to apples. Here are a couple of the differences and points to consider as this year's budget season slowly wraps up.

Loudoun County Does Not Have a Revenue Sharing Agreement:
Prince William County Public Schools has a revenue sharing agreement with the Board of County Supervisors which stipulates that 57.23% of general fund revenues go to the school system. Note, that this is not 57.23% of all revenues (the percentage of all revenues received is a …

Justin Wilk: Prioritize Spending and Focus on Special Education

School Board candidate and former PWCS teacher Justin Wilk has penned an excellent op-ed on Potomac Local. He believes that funding needs to be re-prioritized to be appropriated toward Special education. Ideas and solutions like those that Wilk brings to the table are needed on the School Board. 
To read Justin's op-ed, click here:

Can PWCS Cut Its Way to Victory?

It is well-known that Prince William County's schools have the highest class sizes in the state. Over the years, as revenues, from both the state and BOCS, have not kept pace with growth in student population, the situation has slowly gotten worse because cuts have had to be made in the budget, which have also included higher special education case loads and stagnant teacher compensation.

Ask any teacher or staff member that works for PWCS and they will supply you a laundry list of additional cuts that have been felt in schools as a result of austere budgets. These cuts include, but are definitely not limited to: lack of funding for substitutes, lack of supplies (such as paper), less custodial support, longer turnaround for work orders, cuts at the administration complex resulting in less support for schools and teachers, and so forth.

Despite these realities, there is a fantasy out there that the only way to lower class sizes and case loads is to make more cuts. I am not justify…

Atif Qarni for VA Senate

Prince William County Schools math teacher Atif Qarni hopes to win the VA Senate seat being vacated by long-serving state senator Chuck Colgan.  The primary for the 29th District seat will be held on June 9.  Atif estimates that his team knocked on over 500 doors today!  The Counts are looking forward to having a teacher in General Assembly!

Rick Smith for BOCS Chairman Campaign Kickoff

Kudos to Rick Smith for giving a shout-out to teachers, parents, and students this afternoon at his campaign kickoff.  Rick attended PWCS and his kids were and are educated here.  Rick's lived in PWC 36 years and he has very deep ties to our community.

PWC Electoral Board member  Keith Scarborough also deserves props for mentioning several times in his speech that PWC schools have the largest class sizes in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Justin Wilk, former PWCS teacher and current candidate for the Potomac District School Board seat, attended the event.

But, The Pool!

The aquatics facility at the new 12th High School has been the source of much ire. For many in the community, including some on the Board of County Supervisors, the aquatics facility is viewed as an unnecessary expense when the school system budget should be appropriated toward much more important priorities.

I'll join in the chorus and say that, indeed, the aquatics facility was not best expenditure for the school system. Furthermore, I do not agree with every expenditure that the BOCS has made or every expenditure from the state and federal governments. I also realize that there were people in the community who desired an aquatics facility and others who did not.
Sometimes, when I have approached various community members to describe how much our schools are under-funded in Prince William County, I get this response:
"But, The Pool!" 
The response is given to me as if the lack of an aquatics facility will magically paint sunshine and rainbows everywhere. In fact, it will n…

Here's an idea . . .

If there was a Swear Jar in the backrooms of McCoart, the school division's budget would be fully funded:

The 20% Tax Bill Increase Alarm

Like many, my wages have been rather stagnant in the economy while the cost of everything, from groceries to clothing, to restaurant food to movie tickets, has gone up in price. I cannot say that I really want my taxes to go up. However, given the choice, I'd rather pay for more teachers to lower our class sizes to better educate our students and pay for more police officers to keep our communities safe than not do so, as these are considerations that affect the quality of life and future of our community. 

Taking the proper stand, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) made the responsible step to keep tax bills lower during the most economically challenging years. As you can see from this Washington Post graphic, the average property tax bill has remained rather low in Prince William County and is significantly lower than our Northern Virginia peers.

As an excuse to get the BOCS out of it's responsibility for funding the Five-year plan (which allows the school s…

If You Tell The Lie Enough Times, It Will Be Believed...

As a justification for continuing austerity in local budgeting, the likes of Pete Candland, Mac Haddow, and Jeanine Lawson point out that revenues have kept pace with growth in school funding. And they're right, because they use 2011 or 2012 as benchmark years.

 However, A closer examination shows that such an assertion is not quite honest because the most austere years are used for the benchmark.

The reality?

School funding has not kept pace with growth since 2009. Between 10,000-15,000 additional students have been welcomed into our classrooms since 2009 while local revenues have yet to return to 2009 levels.

The time has come to fund our schools properly and stop skewing the funding realities to abdicate the responsibility for doing so.

Frank Principi: "Better budgeting needed to tackle our growth challenges"

Supervisor Frank Principi (D-Woodbridge) penned an excellent op-ed about what kind of budgetary planning is necessary to meet the needs of our community, especially after years of austerity.

A New Beginning for Prince William County

This blog has been started because it is long past time for the paradigm to be changed in Prince William County. While our county may be a great place to live, work, and play, it is plagued by under-funded schools and under-funded county services. Residents and businesses deserve better. Economic development is necessary to diversify the tax base so that less of the tax burden falls on county residents. However, funding our schools and county services needs to be done in an appropriate way that meet the needs of the community so that we can attract businesses to Prince William County. This is a long-term discussion that goes beyond one budget cycle or one election year, a long-term discussion that should involve multiple voices and perspectives, but results in plans and solutions instead of finger pointing and blaming. 

The aim of this blog is to look for solutions and the big picture. Discussion, agreement, and criticism are welcome. Nobody will be censored as long as disagreement is …