Chair for the Board of Supervisors Forum. What Did They Say About Education?

The meet and greet for candidates seeking the office of Chair for the Board of Supervisors was held on October 6th at the NVCC Loudoun Campus.  Participating were Thomas E. Bellanca (I), Charlie L. King (R), Phyllis J. Randall (D), and Incumbent Scott K. York (I).  The event was hosted by the League of Women Voters of Loudoun County.

The candidates all mentioned education in their opening remarks. Afterwards, they were asked, “With the push for full day kindergarten and the opening of the academies how will you balance the school needs with the tax bills?  Do you see teacher raises, smaller class sizes, elementary school foreign language in the future?”

It was clear that both King (R) and Randall (D) will make full day kindergarten a top priority.  Bellanca (I) noted that the budget issue of $60 million was important, that it should be done right from the get go, and that it took Prince William County five years to implement full day kindergarten.  What he did not say was that full day kindergarten was a top priority.  York (I) stated his support for full day kindergarten but that it would not happen short term while we continue to build schools to keep up with growing enrollment.  York said that there is no room for full day kindergarten in the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).  

To learn more about this forum, refer to the local media who covered the event, including The Washington Post, Leesburg Today, and the Loudoun Times Mirror.  

York (I) said in the opening remarks that, “Elections are very important.  There are consequences for who we vote for.”  The election is November 3rd.  You may file for an absentee ballot up to 5 pm the Tuesday before the election.  For information about voting, go to voter registration and elections.

Enclosed you will find a transcript of the candidate opening remarks references to education as well as the responses to the question concerning education.

Opening Remarks – Education References Only

Randall (D):

In this election, I’ve been endorsed by the Loudoun Education Association PAC. I’ve been endorsed by the Loudoun Police and, today, I found out I got the endorsement of the Loudoun Firefighters.  So the people that serve you, that serve your families, that serve children have asked me to serve as your chair. I am so honored by those endorsements.  I will be talking tonight about education, transportation, jobs and the economy, and transparency and ethics.

King (R):

I’m going to talk a lot about education and transportation, mental health, and ethics.

Bellanca (I):

I campaigned on better planning that creates funding for our schools, better economic development, funding a list of priority projects in the county for transportation.

I was also involved in getting the badly needed funds for building the high school and middle school in Dulles South, which was a crisis situation. 

I campaign for supporting our schools, to help improve our schools.

York (I):

In the last four years …  we have been able to increase the dollars to education by nearly 35% from where they were when we came in.  We have had three years where the funding per student has gone up out of those years and we were able to successfully this past budget session be able to fully fund the schools request.

Education Question -
With the push for full day kindergarten and the opening of the academies how will you balance the school needs with the tax bills?  Do you see teacher raises, smaller class sizes, elementary school foreign language in the future?

Phyllis Randall (D):

I’m so glad we started with this question because all four of us have talked about our support of FDK.  What you might not know, is that in the General Assembly this year, Chairman York went down to the General Assembly and lobbied against full day kindergarten.  It was House bill number 2302.  I actually have the date, the time, the bill, the committee, the patron, the co-patron … I have everything but the restaurant Mr. York took the lobbyists to when he lobbied against full day kindergarten for Loudoun County.   And I really would wonder if he spent taxpayer dollars doing that because if he did, I don’t call that actually effective use of taxpayer dollars. 

In addition, before anyone says that the School Board has not asked for full day kindergarten funds, in 2011 in an off year, off budget, the School Board actually asked to put aside $5 million dollars to start the study for full day kindergarten in the CIP.  But it was not done.  So, if you hear that the School Board did not ask for it, also, not an accurate statement.  You know every other county in the commonwealth has a plan for full day kindergarten.  So this is not rocket science. 

As chair, you lead.  How do you lead?  Well, one thing you do is go and talk to the other chairs, the superintendents of the schools and say, how did you do this?  How did you get full day kindergarten in your county?  And you figure that out.  Budgets of every time are always about priorities.  This Board prioritized a firing range for $20 million dollars when they could have spent $5 million less dollars.  They didn’t prioritize schools with full day kindergarten; they did not prioritize our students.  I will.

Charlie King (R):

I would say that education is Loudoun County’s top priority.  I can’t sit here tonight and tell you what specific budget item lines I’m going to support, not support in the future.  What I think has to happen and has not happened in the process is I think there has to be a much greater dialogue between the board, the staff and the school board long before the budget process goes.  And there has to be more flushing out of issues and more dealing with issues and better communication than there has been in the past. I think in these days, I agree with Ms. Randall, I think that full day kindergarten is a necessity.  It’s something I called for very early on. 

What concerns me is there is not even, at the moment, not even a plan to put kindergarten in place.  If I’m chairman, the first thing that I’m going to do, is I’m going to write a resolution that asks the School Board, because all day kindergarten is a program issue.  The Board can’t order the School Board to add kindergarten.  It can simply suggest that it do a plan and work with the Board to fund that plan.  That’s something that I see as a priority.  I think it’s a priority if we want to attract young families to Loudoun County. 

I think it’s a necessity; we are one of only three jurisdictions in the state that don’t have it.  The reason is that somebody built the schools to small. We don’t have the classrooms.  I think we have to do this now because I don’t think it’s going to get less expensive and I don’t think it’s going to get easier later. 

I’m not running because I want to put off the hard decisions.

Thomas Bellanca (I):

In December, one of the parents who runs the all day kindergarten program, the quest for all day kindergarten, which there’s numerous parents that are involved this process  ….  Held a conference with the new superintendent of the schools, which I attended.  And at that conference it came out that we were the last jurisdiction in the state besides Virginia Beach, which is a city, the last county in the state that doesn’t have all day kindergarten.  And I specifically asked the question, ‘Well how long will it take to get it?”  The example that was given was five years which is what Prince William County did.  It was one of their glowing achievements that they will always hold up that they made this happen. 

I think that the budget issue is an important one.  There is going to be some $60 million dollars that’s going to have to be spent on capital improvements.  I don’t agree with some of the comments that I’ve heard about putting trailers up to have it done the first year.  I think it makes more sense to do it right, build the classrooms the way we need them, and again this is a planning issue. 

There’s also going to be tremendous pressure in the next few years because of the population increase in the middle schools and high schools.  So, it’s also going to be a priority to make sure that we complete this new high school that’s going to compete with the Thomas Edison (Jefferson) school in Fairfax.  

Incumbent Scott York (I):

What Mrs. Randall did not tell you is what the testimony was when I was there.  The fact of the matter is that I did not speak against full day kindergarten.  What I spoke against was the unfunded mandate that was being requested by the very delegate she speaks of.  Not only did the Board of Supervisors vote opposing it, so did the School Board.  Why?  Because we knew at the time, from when Dr. Hatrick was in office, that it would cost us about $60 million dollars to implement. 

We are building school after school.  We are still growing by 2400 students a day (year).  Education is important, it is the priority.  69 cents of every dollar goes to our children.  And as soon as the School Board comes forward with a plan, and now we are looking at $100 million dollar bill to go 100% of all students in full day kindergarten. 

I support full day kindergarten, but I also support having a fiscally viable healthy county.  And you have to put it and implement it in a way that protects your county.  Right now there is no room in the CIP to create the room for an all day kindergarten because we are building school after school just to keep up with where we are at.  And ladies and gentleman, as soon as we are able it will happen.   But right now, because of growth, we are really kind of behind on the number of schools needed, barely keeping up.  The schools we build now are actually the largest schools in Northern Virginia for elementary schools.

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