To the Editor:
We are a community that values education. We’re known nationwide for our world-class education system. And for good reason: with outstanding teachers, motivated students, and active leadership, we have every right to take pride in the top-tier education that our community has asked for. But it scares me, as a student, to think that this cornerstone of our county may be in danger.
For years now, we have been cutting back on our investment in education. Since 2008, Fairfax County Public Schools have lost nearly $500 million in funding while growing by nearly 22,000 students. With enrollment growing faster than our resources can keep up, this means real cuts in real classrooms are affecting me and my 188,000 colleagues. It is not just on paper. It touches every one of us, from kindergarten to adult education.
I spent a fair amount of my childhood in a temporary building barely passing as a classroom. I have had to wait in line to get access to a set of four textbooks in a class of nearly 30. I have seen great teachers, the kind who inspire real change and passion for learning in their students, come and go because of the fact that we are no longer competitive for teacher salary. If we settle for less than the best, then we have compromised our community values.
Half of my teachers work multiple jobs. Two years ago, I ran into an old teacher of mine at a restaurant. As I was sitting at the table, she approached me, beaming with joy to see a past student. After a pleasant nostalgic conversation, there was a pause. She produced a pad and pen, and said “By the way, I’ll be your server tonight.”
It does not have to be this way. By becoming competitive in teacher pay, investing in capital improvement, and allocating meaningful materials to classrooms, we can make strides to improve our system. But this annual battle of the Boards is not sustainable. We need to create a shared partnership and build meaningful progress on the common ground we share.
And as community members, it is up to you to bring that message to your supervisors.
The writer, age 16, is a junior James Madison High School in Vienna.