The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (BOS) has a very serious problem, a problem that goes to the very core of the quality of life of Fairfax County including the value of the tax base and the services and amenities provided by our local government. Its problem is the Fairfax County School Board.
When the county budget is approved by the BOS, it includes a transfer, now about $2 billion, to the School Board for administering our public schools. Once the money is transferred, the BOS has little or no control over how the money is spent. Of course, in determining the amount of the transfer, the BOS receives a detailed budget request from the School Board. However, once the money is transferred, the School Board has the ability to vote on changes.
The School Board also has the authority to revise policies it has enacted to administer the school system. This is where the serious problem arises. In my letter to the editor published in the July 25, 2019 Gazette, I discussed proposed changes to School Board Policy No. 8130.6 in which the School Board wishes to gain the ability to balance the boundaries of school districts taking into account racial and socioeconomic criteria. My previous letter urged the School Board to postpone any decision on changing Policy No. 8130.6 until after a new School Board enters office next January. Prospective revision of Policy No. 8130.6 should be an election issue particularly since about half the School Board members are not running for re-election and others who are seeking re-election face opposition for their seats.
The bedrock of Fairfax County's tax base is real estate values. More often than not, when people decide to shop for a home in Fairfax County, the first question they ask is which high school is served by their prospective new residence. Thus, for example, people shopping for a home in McLean often make sure that a home they are contemplating acquiring is served by Langley High School, one of the top high schools for academic achievement in the county. Homes served by Langley High School sell for a premium price over homes served by other high schools. Here, people want to know if their home will be served by West Potomac High School or Mount Vernon High School.
If the School Board's proposed policy change is enacted, it will mean that the School Board will have the authority to adjust school boundaries by taking into account "racial and socioeconomic" criteria. It will also mean that the School Board will have the ability to bus students from one area to another based upon such criteria. As a result, no one contemplating purchasing a home in Fairfax County will be able to be reasonably assured that the home they plan to purchase will be served by the high school that forms a basis for their purchasing decision. When this occurs, watch home values plummet across the county.
Since the real estate tax is one of the main sources of revenue that the county can control, plummeting of real estate values will result in reduction of county services and amenities and making Fairfax County a less attractive place to live. The BOS needs to address this issue on an urgent basis and make it clear to the School Board that actions it contemplates that will have an adverse impact on real estate values must not be undertaken, so that Fairfax County can maintain its stature as an attractive place to live and work.
H. Jay Spiegel