Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Loudoun BOS - Support the Loudoun County School Budget

Attending the School Board meeting last night in Ashburn was truly an educational experience in itself. Notwithstanding the Tango-related Superintendent address, public comments, and quite eloquent Board member remarks regarding this issue, the meeting was a very large and colorful window into a broad and serious spectrum of topics, issues, events and successes of the Loudoun County Public Schools system. Throw in some quotes from Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, a few public service medals for students, requests for "challenging conditions" driving courses, Arabic language and CDL training, some concerns regarding the Monroe Academy of Science's very narrow curriculum (ostensibly in favour of the Biology-related preferences of its sponsoring entity, HHMI) and lack of AP courses - you've got an event much more intellectual and socially-redeeming to attend than watching the competing "American Idols" on TV. We highly recommend ALL parents attend a School Board meeting or two - free coffee, to boot.

The prevailing undercurrent, however, throughout the whole meeting, was a bit of timely marketing to the public regarding the intentions of the Loudoun County budgeteers to cut the requested School budget and CIP. Even the penguins were played as "trumping" the limited and valuable time and attention available for discussing and promoting the School budget.

Two items in particular stood out. First, a very valid point was made about the need for Loudoun County to revisit and revise the Land Use Exceptions policies. Drastically lower taxes for large landowners evidently results in over $200 Million worth of taxes not collected by the County, according to one School Board member. Obviously these exceptions are not all unwarranted - but there are certainly many pockets of benefit without just or fully-transparent cause. We also would like to raise (and shear) a few sheep in our backyard to escape property taxes, but it's not favored by our HOA.

Second, the CIP cutbacks are penny-wise and pound-foolish, and will, for example, deny nearly a thousand students in the Dulles South area reasonable High School accommodations. This will lead to the downward, destructive community spiral of overcrowding, more traffic, more accidents, more students per class, less instruction, less desirable working conditions for teachers and ultimately less educated students with higher numbers of community infractions and social issues.

Certainly there's lots of complaining around the blogosphere about the "gilded" School Board accommodations, about non-parents having to pay for seemingly extravagant enrichment activities, and about seemingly "rich" parents who should kick in extra for their own kids. But, from our experience living in this county, attending BOS and School Board meetings, knowing many parents and children, having children in both private and public schools for various reasons, having many friends with children in Arlington, Prince William Fairfax, Montgomery and various NJ counties (for comparison), and witnessing many more opportunities for rational, fiscal responsibility on the part of the BOS vs. the School Board - we acknowledge the School budget must be retained intact, as proposed.

Stevens Miller - support the School budget. Especially for this fastest-growing, in terms of both community and business, area of the county in Dulles South.



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