Teachers Undervalued, Dominion Owns Legislature

Fairfax County is preparing to stick it to our public school teachers again, as they have done for several years. New Superintendent Karen Garza has submitted a 2015 budget to the nominally Democratic Board of Supervisors, a budget including serious cuts (though not so much in fat central admin) and a modest 2 percent pay boost for teachers who’ve not had one in last three years, counting the year they got a nominal salary raise more than offset by an increase in their retirement contribution. But, the Supes promptly pleaded dire poverty in this county with incomes averaging over $105,000/year. The Supes say they will cut the budget. Now Ms. Garza and School Board are already in retreat, offering to continue the effective freeze on teacher pay. Teachers are justifiably upset and getting tired of being frankly disrespected. The work expected of them grows and grows—and unlike Police, who are paid more than teachers and are frequently paid overtime upping their incomes to well over $100,000—teachers don’t get paid overtime. They just shoulder all the additional paperwork and student/family services time voluntarily and soldier on. But, some teachers are now so fed up they are threatening job actions—i.e., doing just what their contract requires and NO more. While teachers love their work and are generally unlikely to carry out massive job actions, particularly ones affecting students, the continued lack of appreciation for their work is seriously damaging morale, and will result in excellent teachers and staff looking for better-paying positions elsewhere. The news from the legislative session in Richmond ranges from bad to disgusting. Expanding basic health care to 3-400,000 lower income Virginians faces huge House of Delegates opposition and the promised ethics reform package is a joke, continuing to encourage limitless gifting and unregulated campaign cash. In a blatant example this corrupt model in action is legislation adopted overwhelmingly to give Dominion Power a $400 million tax break, courtesy of us taxpayers, on investment in nuclear power. Dominion invests almost nothing in renewable energy, but pretty much owns the legislature. Check for yourself. Ask your state Delegate Ken Plum and State Senator Janet Howell if they voted for or against the windfall for Dominion, and ask them how much they received in: 1) campaign money in the last couple of years, and what was the value of personal gifts they received from Dominion over the same time. I am not singling out Ken and Janet, because in fact nearly every single legislator in Virginia receives generous ($2,000/year or more) in campaign money and many receive gifts as well. Your electric bills include a surcharge for investing in Virginia legislators. Is there any good news locally? Yes, there are several excellent candidates running for the Reston Association Board of Directors. You should be getting your ballots for the election—2 At-Large seats and the Hunters Woods Rep.-early this week. RA has not been doing very well of late. It seriously needs new blood to better protect our natural resource endowment and better address the future direction of our special community, e.g., in shaping phase 2 of the Reston Master Plan, and addressing the failing. outdated air-conditioning monopoly, RELAC. Among the candidates for the 2 At-large seat, Rachel Muir and Colin Mills stand out. Lucinda Shannon, running unopposed for the Hunters Woods/Dogwood seat, will also be an outstanding addition to the Board. Don’t forget to vote!