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    Editorial: A teaching and learning moment for the future of Loudoun schools

    Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Edgar B. Hatrick III got it exactly right when he said Loudoun’s schools are at a “tipping point.” Enrollment is swelling amid the commercial and residential growth of the county. Costs are rising as our educational system is being transformed by what is known as 21st Century Learning.

    The integration of an array of technologies is moving into all aspects of education. Multi-million dollar learning management systems are now required to manage the connected pieces of a complex educational ecosystem.

    For teachers, the change is transformational. Vital skills are required to develop young minds for a connected, always-on society. Technologies in the classroom and at home can be confusing to manage, but the confusion is worth it; our children have unprecedented access to knowledge and learning as they move through all aspects of our culture. They have a native instinct for the devices, programs and apps that are so much apart of their lives, as well as ours.

    Sadly, the debate over the school budget impacts one of our most valuable resources, teachers. They are the collateral damage of a pay “sag” that forces them to seek better paying jobs in neighboring counties.

    Dr. Hatrick has the luxury of being forthcoming. He’s retiring after 22 years leading the district. He’s submitted a $953 million budget that sets the stage for a difficult battle with county supervisors who have shown no interest in even a slight hike in the county's property tax rate, a prospect that would leave a funding gap of more than $56 million for county schools. With a new revenue projection from the county, the gap has shrunk from the massive $84 million it was earlier in the process. The supervisors, all Republicans, seem intent on upholding campaign promises of fiscal responsibility and lower property taxes.

    We are advocates of both efficiency and cost-management. If there is bloat in the budget, take it out. But don’t put it on the backs of teachers.

    As for technology, enlightened managers use it to crush costs, not raise them. Society uses it to expand knowledge, not limit it.

    Unfortunately, our elected leaders have cast the issue of funding our schools as a political decision. They ought to consider it as one about teaching and learning. Let’s build a lesson plan around this real-life proposition: How do we, as responsible citizens, exercise clear-sighted judgment that balances spending with an invaluable asset in our community?

    In answering that question, we should not have to explain to our children why a talented, caring teacher has to look elsewhere for a job. Or why students who are hungry to learn settle for pencils and paper in their classrooms when more engaging educational tools are everywhere around them.

    “Good people cost money,” Dr. Hatrick says. So does good technology. Both are prudent investments for our schools. In the long run, both raise the value of education by providing a substantial return-on-investment: a capable generation empowered to solve any problem, a generation that can apply the skills, talents and capabilities they acquire in their home county to make their lives better.

    Dr. Hatrick’s budget seeks an increase of $32 million in compensation to attract and retain talented teachers who might otherwise be lured to school systems that offer better salaries. The budget also seeks an additional $13 million for system-wide technology upgrades, including computer maintenance, new software and communications equipment.

    These investments strike us as appropriate, necessary and responsible given the escalating costs of education and technology in a highly educated community with high expectations for their children.

    Supervisors should honor Dr. Hatrick’s service, his judgment and his vision for the future by approving his budget. Even if it takes a modest increase in the tax rate to pay for it.

    Comments

    Hey… let’s buy some more of those expensive white boards we “had” to have a couple years ago.  This country was built with pencil, paper, a slide rule and a HS education, when students were actually taught.  How many more anti-bullying assemblies do my children have to have?  The problem with Liberalism is that you eventually run out of other peoples money. 


    @Hasaclue, you’re assuming they have the expertise and make the right decsions… The sky is always falling and the kids will suffer… It’s been like that for 20+ years in LCPS. Yet, Loudoun kids do great with less money spent per pupil. Perhaps because the parents help out more with school and kids than any other county in VA…..


    Similar to the editorial’s authors, I’m all about efficiency and cost management too. But you don’t get there by the BoS pulling a number out of their “air” and passing it off as appropriate without any real clue what it should be. I’m also still waiting to find out by which or whose standard the tax rate is too high.  Is it someone that “thinks” they pay too much, or a comparison with some district/county/state that is not Loudoun and doesn’t have the development, growth, income, etc. - the old apples and orange- instead of a data driven value proposition? The same goes for claiming that a specific number of personnel or smartboards or other technology is not worth it.  Is that because someone “thinks” or “feels” that it’s too many or not necessary, or is there some pedagogical research to back that up? It seems to me that the people with the education, knowledge and experience that were hired to do those jobs precisely because of their expertise should be the ones making decisions at that level of detail without a bunch of micromanagement from the outside.


    Most in Loudoun county pay way too much in taxes already. Dr Hatrick and the school board is to blame, keeping small schools open, putting smart boards in every class room. Yeah, teachers should get a raise, however that means cutting back somewhere else, like do we really need 3 deans at every MS(besides 3 principals)? Half empty buses? outsourcing certain support positions(or combining with the county, like planning group).


    Maybe we need to do more with less elsewhere and bring teacher’s compensation up to a level more consistent with the significant value they provide to the community. Teachers are highly educated professionals, not fungible commodities. Better yet, maybe people need to act less entitled and those not willing to pay for the true value of the services they receive should move somewhere else where they can pay less.


    It’s a competitive market.  We need to do more with less.  If teachers are not happy with their total comp, then they need to seek other work.  There’s a line of people waiting to fill the gap.

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