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 not.

The building of the aquatics facility is a one time expense of approximately $12 million.

Whoa! $12 million is a lot of money! Or is it?

* The school system budget is over $1 billion. 

* The cost to reduce class sizes by one student for one year is $15 million.

* The difference between our current per-pupil expenditure and if we had funded at Loudoun County's per pupil expenditure is $157 million.

Another consideration is the difference between a one-time cost and a yearly cost.

For example, a class size reduction by one student and the cost of the aquatics facility are quite similar:

However, over ten years, it costs a lot more than one aquatics facility to reduce class sizes by just one student:

Of course, reducing class sizes by only one student in all grades in a 10-year period would be a low bar for achievement. The cost to reduce class sizes to those of our neighboring school systems or pre-recession levels would be significantly more than the cost of one aquatics facility, and over 10 years, much more than 12.5 aquatics facilities.

Furthermore, the reality is that the aquatics facility was built using CIP (Capital Improvements Project) funding that never would have seen the light of day as a class size reduction or a compensation increase for staff.  

The only viable argument against the aquatics facility is that the funding for it could have been better spent toward classroom space when so many classes are in trailers and teachers are on carts. That's it. Nothing more. Nothing less.

The "But, the pool!" argument is nothing more than a diversionary tactic meant to distract the discussion about funding our schools to pass blame and avoid solutions. The argument does not hold its weight in water.


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