To the Editor:
I am a parent of three children and a resident of the Mount Vernon District. I am writing to applaud Supervisor Dan Storck, along with Supervisors Kathy Smith and John Foust, for voting on March 1 to support a robust community dialogue about school funding.
We are witnessing the end of a long tradition of excellence in Fairfax County Public Schools. Our best teachers are leaving for better pay (up to $20,000 more) in neighboring jurisdictions — about 200 instructional positions were open at the beginning of the year, and almost 50 remain unfilled. Class sizes have increased to such an extent that it is regarded as a positive development when the superintendent proposes a cap of 30 kids per elementary class. And now, after nine years and nearly $500 million of budget cuts, FCPS is considering the elimination of key programs and services that make our schools great, including needs-based staffing, full-day kindergarten, language immersion, AAP centers, 4th grade strings, and freshman sports. In addition, FCPS may impose costly fees, such as $300 for each out-of-boundary student and $200 per sport for each student.
We need great schools. Families and businesses move and stay here because of the schools. Property values are higher because of the schools. Our economy is stronger because of the schools.
Fairfax County residents are rising up as never before. Since November, thousands of residents have signed petitions, contacted their elected officials, and attended rallies and town hall meetings to protest the failure by Fairfax County and the State of Virginia to provide sufficient funding to sustain the quality of our public schools. Supervisor Storck wanted to give his constituents the opportunity to advocate before the Board of Supervisors on April 5-7 for a tax rate that would enable full funding for FCPS.
Consistent with past practice, the board should have set a higher Advertised Tax Rate on March 1 and considered a lower actual rate on April 26.
Instead, the board rushed its decision and set the Advertised Tax Rate at a low level ($1.13 per $100 of assessed value) that will create a massive budget deficit for FCPS. In so doing, the board deprived residents of their democratic right to advocate for the appropriate tax rate.
We will continue our advocacy, and we will continue to fight for the future of our great schools and our great county. Although we face tremendous obstacles, we have the benefit of a strong ally in Supervisor Storck.