Mass majority at public hearings: ‘Fully fund Loudoun’s schools’
More than 100 local residents appeared before the all-Republican Board of Supervisors Feb. 26 and March 1 in support of LCPS, with several speakers flatly saying they'll be happy to pay higher taxes if it means the local school system's budget is fully funded.
A minute fraction of residents who spoke opposed granting LCPS its full budget.
“For the past few years the budget has been severely underfunded and it is slowly eroding the school system,” said Blossom Martin, a local mother of two, during the evening Feb. 26 session. “There has been much public support for fully funding the School Board's budget this year. And yet, I hear time and again that members of your board are preemptively concluding that you will not fund the budget as it stands.”
In front of a standing room-only crowd, Martin continued, “This is against the will and wishes of many of your constituents and citizens of this county.”
Devin MacGoy, the sophomore class president at Potomac Falls High School in Sterling, offered a student's perspective to the supervisors.
“It was Benjamin Franklin who said, 'An investment in knowledge pays the best interest,'” MacGoy said. “And so I stand before you tonight to encourage you to fully fund Loudoun County Public Schools.”
Scott Copeland, a Leesburg father, pressed the board to fund the entirety the school system's budget and “turn Loudoun County back into the premier school district in America.” Copeland specifically mentioned what he sees as his son's inadequate access to the latest educational technology.
“I'm not a wealthy man, and I do pay my mortgage with two jobs. I always have money, though, for things that matter to me, and that's my son,” he said. “And I have no problem paying more taxes so that the education for him and all the others can be so much better here.”
The Board of Supervisors is expected to finalize the fiscal 2015 budget the first week of April.
In early February, LCPS adopted a $950 million fiscal 2015 budget. The $950 million mark leaves a roughly $40 million budget gap between school system's budget the county's proposed budget at an equalized tax rate for the coming fiscal year.
While the supervisors have increased funding for the county's schools in recent years, school advocates say that allocation hasn't kept pace with student growth, increased needs for technology and a competitive pay scale for teacher.
LCPS is expected to welcome more than 2,300 new students and open three new schools next year.
As noted by one of the speakers, Martin, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott York (R-At Large) told School Board members in mid-February the Board of Supervisors won't grant full funding to the LCPS.
Supervisor Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run), the board's vice chair, has consistently responded in recent week to notions that his board is slashing education. Williams opined that facts of the budget “often get lost in this passionate discussion.”
“This board has properly funded education since they have been in office accommodating for additional growth, new school construction and giving raises for teachers,” Williams noted on his Facebook page. “This year, the county administrator’s budget proposal includes an 8 percent, or $70 million increase, in a year with 3.4 percent enrollment growth.”
Supervisors will meet for budget worksessions March 6 at 6 p.m. and March 8 at 9 a.m. Members of the School Board will be on hand at the March 8 session to discuss the LCPS spending plan.