Four years is a long time to live with a decision. If you already know which candidates you are voting for on November 3rd and you know that they support awesome public schools, then read no further.
Candidates respond to two surveys. There are two resources that reveal exactly where candidates stand on the important issue of public education. The Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce questionnaire ( here ) and the Loudoun Times Mirror questionnaire ( here ). Candidates for both the Board of Supervisors and the School Board participated in these surveys.
Incumbents of the Board of Supervisors are eager to share that school funding has increased by as much as 29% since 2011, which is a view through a cracked door. Broad Run School Board Candidate Joy Maloney offers a wider view in the Mirror survey stating that, “Our current per pupil spending is the second lowest in Northern Virginia and lower than it was in 2009.” The Washington Area Boards of Education (WABE) Guide (here) shows the comparisons of neighboring school districts and the LCPS website provides the past funding history and cost per pupil.
Public education is not even on Suzanne Volpe’s (Algonkian District-R) radar. When asked by the Chamber, “How do you propose to address the increasing funding requests by Loudoun County Public Schools to ensure our children receive a quality education?” she brings up toilet paper. Yes. TP. Suzanne “Don’t Squeeze The Charmin” Volpe says, “As I explain to constituents all the time, the County buys toilet paper and the Schools buy toilet paper, why cannot we buy it together and save money?” While her opponent, Andrew Resnick (D) responds, “The bottom line is we need leaders who understand the value of strong schools for our community. … Investing in our schools is directly tied to helping keep property values high and tax rates low. This in turn helps attract businesses to the county and ensures Loudoun remains competitive.”
Eugene Delgaudio (Sterling District-R) is focused on bricks and mortar capital improvements with no mention of what happens in the classroom. In the questionnaires, Dulles District Incumbent Matt Letourneau (R) says that he supports public education. Yet, as chair of the Board of Supervisors finance committee, Letourneau has already supported the committee’s 2017 fiscal guidance using two scenarios, an estimated real property equalized tax rate ($1.115) and the current real property tax rate ($1.135). The Board of Supervisors adopted the fiscal guidance on September 18th. County government staff has acknowledged that the equalized tax rate does not even cover the cost of core services for the approximate 11,000 anticipated new residents. The 2017 budget climate includes an increased county population, an increased school enrollment, and a likelihood that the $10 million in surplus funds used last year to fund the schools will not be available again. Will an equalized tax rate scenario or a current tax rate scenario provide core county services without reducing them? Will these scenarios provide continued smaller class sizes, universal full day kindergarten, foreign language in elementary schools, increased STEM opportunities, programs in the arts and humanities, greater transition opportunities for students with disabilities, improvied teacher compensation incentives, or expanding technology initiatives?
There’s more to learn from these questionnaires. Supervisor Suzanne Volpe (Algonkian District-R) and School Board member Debbie Rose (Algonkian District –R) did not participate in the Mirror’s survey. Many candidates for the Board of Supervisors are critical of the dated county comprehensive plan that has not been revised since 2001. Even the incumbents running for re election are critical that the comprehensive plan is 15 years old. At least they acknowledge the importance of a current plan but it was not important enough to update it these past four years.
Candidates supporting school funding. You can find out how strong your Board of Supervisor candidate supports school funding by going directly to the question in the Loudoun Times Mirror survey that asks, “Do you favor possible increases in the county’s tax structure to finance the growing cost of education and building more schools?” The Chamber’s questionnaire has a very similar question. Take a look.
In elections, actions speak louder than words. Let’s vote with our feet on Tuesday, November 3rd and put leaders on the Board of Supervisors who will put our children first. Let’s elect School Board members who will advocate to receive funding for the school budget.
At Large School Board candidate Stephen Knobloch (D) gets to the point, “Over the past few years, the BOS began budget deliberations by drawing lines in the sand rather than listening to constituents, gathering information and identifying required services. The two boards have dug a deep hole. … Let’s not wait until the next election year, 2019, before we have another fully-funded school budget.”
Get the word out to get the vote out.