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Loudoun teachers, parents ask supervisors to fully fund school system budget

A handful of Loudoun teachers and parents gathered Tuesday at the Board of Supervisors’ first public hearing on the $2.5 billion proposed fiscal 2018 budget Tuesday night. They had one request: fully fund the Loudoun County Public Schools budget.

The speakers' plea came a couple weeks after County Administrator Tim Hemstreet presented the proposed spending plan based on the board’s guidance to present a budget at the estimated equalized real property tax rate of $1.135 per $100 assessed value.

Within that budget, the total transfer of county funds to Loudoun County Schools would come only $3.5 million shy of the school system's adopted budget for the coming fiscal year -- the smallest funding gap in years.

But parents and teachers urged the board to consider raising the county’s proposed budget by an additional half cent above the proposed tax rate to fully meet the needs of LCPS’ staff and students.

“I believe the additional half cent is worth it to improve mental health safety for our teens. I believe that an additional half cent is worth it to improve transportation and LCPS, I believe that an additional half cent is worth it to expand full-day kindergarten,” Sandy Sullivan, a third-grade teacher at Legacy Elementary School in Ashburn, said.

Several other teachers and parents echoed her call to action.

Sterling Middle School Teacher Corey Griswold said LCPS was not doing more with less but “less with less.”

“Our budget is people. That half cent and the tax rate is not a statistic, it’s my co-workers who help to improve the lives of our children. We serve as nurses to students who cannot get medical care, as counselors to those who cannot get mental care, kitchens to those who cannot eat and shelters to those without a home,” Griswold said. “We need to look past survival. It’s time to dream big.”

Hemstreet has advertised a real property tax rate of $1.140 to provide the board with options to fund LCPS’ budget request and to fund additional county budget requests.

The proposed budget is balanced at the equalized tax rate of $1.135, which is 1 cent lower than the current tax rate.

Meanwhile, LCPS’ allocation is up $61 million year-over-year, and the school system has adopted a $1.124 billion spending plan that bolsters mental health services, continues to expand full-day kindergarten and increases bus driver positions and pay.

Overall, LCPS’ fiscal 2018 budget is a more than 9 percent year-over-year increase and funds over 10,930 full-time-equivalent positions.

Included in the school system's budget is more than $38 million for increases relating to salaries and benefits

Amid competing county and LCPS needs, last week, supervisors questioned the school administration’s asks and cautioned that although the funding gap is one of the lowest it's been in years, the county government was also facing issues around salaries and compensation.

“That’s something we’re going to have a to address on our side, which could certainly have an impact on the school budgets in future years as we address the same type of critical need and turnover rates and things like that that you all are saying,” Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles), chair of the board’s finance committee, said last week.

According to a county survey released last month, when asked which services Loudouners would be willing to pay higher taxes to fund, 50 percent of respondents said they would pay more to fix the county’s schools, followed by 45 percent who said they would want to fix traffic problems.

Mother Michele Copeland called on the board to fully fund the school’s budget at “whatever the cost.”

She talked about how she often had to re-learn algebra online to help her son with his homework because it's a challenge for him to grasp the subject in a crowded classroom.

Copeland said teachers like the ones at her son’s middle school deserved raises.

“Having smaller class sizes next year so kids like my son get the attention they need to learn math skills is money well spent, and I am happy to pay the extra half cent for this school budget if it means that I can spend less time learning algebra,” she said.

Comments


We spend more (on a per-student per-year basis) on K-12 education than most other countries. Japan, France, Iceland, Germany, the U.K., Denmark, etc. all spend less than we do, but they seem to be doing okay. https://data.oecd.org/chart/4KPV

U.S. schools, Loudoun’s included, have plenty of money…they just aren’t using it properly. Cut spending, prioritize the important things, and stop hassling the taxpayers for more and more and more every year…at least until you’ve proved you’re good stewards of what you already have.


Every year we hear the same sad story about how someone’s going to suffer if the school board’s budget isn’t “fully funded.”  But why is the demand always put upon the taxpayer to give more?

Meanwhile, kids from other countries are flowing across our border and filling our schools, requiring ESL and free meals, etc., and the demand is never placed on the schools or government to put a stop to this unlawful activity.  Enforce our immigration laws, cut wasteful spending, reduce administrative officials’ pay ($350,000 for superintendent is insane!), and THEN, and ONLY then, dare to ask for more funding!


“FULLY FUND” is an interesting phrase. It implies parents/taxpayers should fully embrace LCPS in all of its operations, motives and effectiveness. As a former school board member and parent of three children all of whom graduated from Broad Run High School I would say yes to the concept as soon as the following items are committed to with accountability:
1 De-couple admin pay from teacher pay allowing other salary scales to self-justify their pay levels. Some admin jobs with almost no direct reports should not have $170k plus remunerations!
2 Incorporate parental input into a performance index to teacher pay so merit is part of remuneration and teachers who are dysfunctional to students are GONE!
3 Enforce and publish analytical reviews for ALL operational and capital costs over $25k and insure they have been competed. (Artificial turf fields built on ground already served by a water well would NEVER be financially justified, law firms and architects should have to compete as well!)
4 Coordinate teaching plans by department and publish materials to students (stop buying $300 textbooks) and pay teachers a stipend for part of what this saves. (textbook publishers don’t have IP rights to algebra, physics etc)
5 Drop all courses that don’t have at least 20 students in the class(except special ed classes where this is not possible)
6 Stop transporting children (again other than special ed) when the bus has less than 60% utilization.
7 Cap salaries for admin at $150K (other than Superintendent) and eliminate the top two teacher salary levels as they are above Fairfax and were put into place to entice teachers not to retire. Long term teachers who can retire but still love to teach can retire and still teach part time. This could save LCPS $millions per year and still keep the best teachers.
8 Stop allowing teachers to transfer away from challenging areas and enforce similar experience levels at all schools. (Mentoring is only achievable when experience is in the school)
9 TRT’s and librarians are teachers - have them teach at least one class making each school a bit more efficient without really losing anything from these two important categories.
10 Stop trying to start all equal leveled schools at the same time allowing multiple bus trips in highly dense neighborhoods meaning much less drivers and buses are needed and more kids will enjoy breakfast.
11 Finally, when you have the ability to influence legislators to work on removing the composite index which extracts well over $200,000,000 from the LCPS budget every year DO IT!!!!!   
Sincerely
Bob O__ Esq.


Mother Copeland needs to be asking for an EFFECTIVE algebra teacher.  We have many but not all are effective.  Why don’t we pay more for more effective teachers?  Heck, why don’t we pay more for more difficult subjects to teach?  Why is one of our best teachers, TOY John Tuck, switching to be an Asst Principal because talented teachers like himself must slowly move up the seniority chain demanded by the unions?

LCPS can’t even spend $35M of the funds it receives.  Its budget is grossly inflated.

LCPS told us they need to give extra raises because of “competitive” pressures from districts like Fairfax.  Out of 6000 teachers, a grand total of 14 transferred to Fairfax last year according to LCPS own data.  And LCPS retention is much higher than Fairfax.  So how can they justify giving out $10M in extra raises.

And how in the world can they justify the $2-4M request for extra raises for administrators?

The BOS should understand that this will be publicized from now until 2019 if they just give out increased revenues like candy to all the unions.  The sheriff’s dept needs it because the salaries aren’t high enough to generate applicants.  LCPS has more applicants than it can interview.  Unless and until they promote based on merit, no raises should be given beyond step increases.


The at any cost crowd in action, egads! Virginia ranks 4th in teacher compensation. Give them the chained inflation index rate for a raise. 9% this year , 8% last year the super uses taxpayers as his personal slush fund. FDK is a joke for those who aren’t special ed or English as a second language. Cut the in needed spending is what sane politicians do. Proof, the occupant of the oval office.

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