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Stone Bridge Student: Teachers deserve to paid more

I am currently an 11th grader at Stone Bridge High School and have always worked hard to make the most of my time as a student. After 12 years of first-hand experience with the public school system, I have seen how ineffective teaching can be, but also the potential our government and local school board has to fix it.

        There has been talk among the Federal government to cut spending towards education. As a student and as a county, this is worrisome, as the classroom is an environment that constantly needs updating, either in the form of newer textbooks or improved technology. I have personally found that my educational experience improved drastically the year that Promethean boards were installed into every room (my 4th grade year), replacing the dusty archaic chalkboards and making learning more interactive. Some of my toughest classes, such as AP Chemistry, highly benefitted from new textbooks, as scientific discoveries are constantly being made and the AP curriculum is evolving every year. Loudoun County Public Schools has always been the frontrunner for providing students with the latest and greatest access to information, and although expensive, it has always been worth the price. So it is no wonder that Federal plans to cut funding towards education is worrying, not for our county, but also for public school systems across America.

                Luckily, I have come across a solution. And although it may seem counter-intuitive, this is a spending plan that have been in effect in other countries for years and have been proven to work. The answer: we must pay teachers more. Even some of the poorest European countries, such as Poland, have a great education system thanks to their teachers being paid well. This higher pay check sets a standard, making teachers more accountable for their jobs and making teaching positions more prestigious and difficult to get in the first place. For example, Finland has the best education in the world, ranking first with the highest PISA score (a global, standardized test of a country’s educational success). In Finland, getting into a teacher-training program is as prestigious as getting into a medical school in the US. And although Finland funds heavily into teacher-training programs and salaries, this investment pays off in the long run as educational scores skyrocket from the abundance of remarkable teachers. Because of this, Finland was able to cut spending on routine inspections and strict programs similar to No Child Left Behind. Implementing reforms comparable to these other successful countries is how we will see an improvement in learning, while adhering to a smaller budget.

            All these fancy new textbooks and iPads are no good unless the teachers equipped with them know how to use them effectively to connect with students. There is absolutely nothing more torturous and mind-numbing than a class where the teacher simply does not care about the course material or the students in the room. In conclusion, the United States should make teachers a more respectable and difficult profession to pursue. Then we can ease strict regulations, cut spending, and give teachers a higher salary. It is a win-win situation for the students, staff, and the government officials picky about educational spending. Loudoun County may not be able to accomplish such an enormous task alone, but our public school system can spark such a movement into the right direction.

        I hope this letter is read by students, parents, and Loudoun County Public School staff who have a more direct form of suggesting and enforcing ideas than I do. It is up to our local community to spark a national change.

Karen Zipor

Stone Bridge High School Student

Reid: Paying for Metro: Add residences to Silver Line plan

I applaud Dulles District Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R), with whom I served on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors from 2012-2015, for standing tall with other Virginia elected officials in opposing the proposed regional tax for Metro (Times-Mirror June 8, 2017).

Any “dedicated funding source” for Metro must be coupled with reforms to its governance, union rules and wages and be limited to capital (maintenance) costs, not salaries. Letourneau is also correct in noting it is not fair for Virginia to pay 51 percent of future capital costs for Metro, which are at least $10 billion.

When our Board voted to opt into Metro in July 2012, we created a special tax district to pay for constructing the Silver Line and to finance Metro’s operating and maintenance costs moving forward. This means the Metro “burden” would fall on the property owners near the future stations at Dulles Airport and Routes 28, 606 and 772, as they will benefit the most in increased valuations. The goal is to not have Metro costs compete with funds for schools, public safety and other needs as Loudoun is going to keep growing.

But this means the County needs taxable parcels (ratables) at these future rail stations to pay back the $274 million to build for Phase I and II of the Silver line, plus at least $260 million for the overall Metro system. At a recent Board Finance Committee meeting, it was revealed that Loudoun may have to pay at least $30 million for Metro operating and maintenance in 2020, when the Silver Line is slated to begin operations. Only $8 to $9 million of that would come from a two percent tax on motor fuel sales in the county.

But the proposed Silver Line Comprehensive Plan Amendment (CPAM), which the Board may adopt at the end of June, calls for no residential development at the 606 station, just commercial uses. Given the decline in office and retail in our economy, one cannot expect much retail and office at 606 without a “residential component,” and a Redskins stadium (proposed) is not going to cut it for tax revenue.

Even if the CPAM, which covers just the 606 and 772 stations, builds out as forecast, the county staff estimates the addition to Metro’s coffers is only $4.5 million a year. That really isn’t much where Metro is concerned and the CPAM requires between $360-420 million in capital facility costs on top.  And, Loudon has to pay back the bonds for a $39 million parking garage at 606, too.

The main reason the Board of Supervisors is not eyeing residential development at the 606 station is due to pressure from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) and its advocates in the Committee for Dulles and Washington Airports Task Force.

For them, even one house in the county’s airport protection zone – which covers the land at the 606 station – is not compatible with airline use, will generate noise complaints and lead to pressure on federal authorities to curtail Dulles operations, which has happened at Reagan National and other U.S. airports. I’d like to refute these fears.

First, the Airport Overlay District was established in 1992 and has been unchanged since, despite the fact today’s jets are quieter and new technologies exist to soundproof buildings better.

Second, MWAA’s own data shows that 84 percent of its complaints come from one household in Poolesville, MD, and that many of the complaint lodged in Northern Virginia are not even in that 1992 zone.  There are complaints in Aldie, Leesburg and South Riding.

Third, the political dynamics of Reagan National are different than Dulles. National’s flight path goes past some of the most high-priced homes and “entitled” people in the nation. In fact, 75 percent of Reagan National complaints come from two homeowners in Northwest DC.

Maryland politicians are all-too-eager to assuage their complainers as it’s viewed as a means to curtail Reagan National and help Baltimore Washington International airport – as if that really helps BWI at all. I cannot see Virginia’s senators and congress members seeking to curtail Dulles operations when they know full-well they will be hurting the Northern Virginia economy.

Therefore, I would respectfully request the Board of Supervisors not to adopt the Silver Line CPAM as is and rethink the residential component at 606, perhaps for workforce housing. Please follow the advice of your staff and Planning Commission and re-examine the 1992 noise overlay district and scrutinize MWAA’s own complaint data. In addition, the Board needs to consider single-family homes at 772 or at the Route 28 station as that housing variety could produce more tax revenue for Metro.

The board also needs to conduct a better fiscal impact analysis of the CPAM and compare to the 2011 “Lesser Study,” which for some reason gets no mention in the documents I reviewed.

Failure to ensure steady development at all of Loudoun’s future Metro stations will unfairly place the burden of Metro in the general fund, meaning homeowners in much of the county are paying for a service that will benefit them in limited ways.

I also believe that throwing Metro costs into the general fund will be serious political risk for many members of the Board.  And, MWAA does not get involved in politics to help the various elected who help them.

Ken Reid

Leesburg

Flannery: Remove the statue. History shows us it is about slavery.

Since 2013, I have urged my friends and neighbors to remove the Confederate Soldier statue that bears a rifle in the direction of approaching visitors to the court in Leesburg. It is an offending symbol of disunion, lawlessness and slavery.

There have been all sorts of arguments in opposition that are not fair or legitimate and disregard a growing public sentiment that the statue belongs someplace else and not in front of the court house.

“We here talk among ourselves and some of us have resented that statue,” Leesburg court personnel have told me.

The most virulent opposition to removing the statue claims that the statue is not about slavery, it’s just about history.

In our Constitution, we expressly state “we the people” seek “to form a more perfect union.” The Confederate Constitution doesn’t say that – as it was born of disunion.

Our Constitution says we seek to “provide for the common defense.” The Confederate Constitution said no such thing. In fact, the Confederates were breaching their obligation to “the common defense” by seceding.

Our preamble provides for the “general welfare,” the Confederate Constitution does not.
As for why the South seceded, Article I, Section 9, Clause 4 of the Confederate States Constitution prohibited any law that denied or impaired “the right of property in negro slaves …”

Article IV, Section 2 of the Confederate States Constitution granted its citizens the right to travel anywhere “with their slaves.”

Article IV, Section 3, Clause 3 authorized slaves in any new confederate territory they acquired, and presumably that included the North if the Confederates could win the war.

So, it was about slavery.

Otherwise, the true history of Loudoun County has been whitewashed to cast the statue as a more harmless symbol.

Loudoun Delegate John Janney presided over an extraordinary legislative session in Richmond, convened by the Governor, on April 4, 1861. Janney argued for the Union, and the delegates voted for Union, by a margin of almost two to one, 89-45.
Rabid secession leaders, however, sought to overturn the result. Intimidated union delegates left Richmond. The second vote, on April 17, supported secession, 88-55.

Some called for a vote of the public. 50,000 rebel troops came into Virginia to “help.” Union voters fled to Maryland. Other Union voters were barred from voting. Some who did vote union were thrown into the Potomac. There were disturbances at the polls at Lovettsville and Lincoln. There were directions to the troops to use bayonets at the polling places.

Union supporters were then arrested or driven out of Virginia. Confederate cavalry took teams of horses and wagons from farmers in the German and Quaker settlements. If they didn’t have either, they were pressed into service as drivers.

Samuel C. Means owned the mill at Waterford. He refused to take up arms against the U.S. The Confederates took all of his property, and his horses, wagons, hogs, flour, meal, everything. Means retreated to Maryland but returned leading the Loudoun Rangers drawn from the Quaker and German settlements in Loudoun to fight for the Union.

We have no statue to the Rangers who remained faithful to the Union, only a plaque opposite the Mill in Waterford.

Over the last several years, we’ve heard from those mobilized to oppose removal of the statue, many of the same folk who unsuccessfully fought to place Confederate flags in Leesburg. The hard-worded opposition hearkens back to how a vote of secession was obtained, veiled and not so veiled threats.

It is right and just to remove this statue. But those who have been silent must find their voice to speak out against the statute.

John Flannery is a Leesburg attorney and former federal prosecutor. A frequent analyst on cable news, he writes periodically for the Times-Mirror.

Leesburg

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