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EDITORIAL: For $1 billion, citizens should expect accountability from Loudoun County Public Schools

It’s budget season and the timing couldn’t be worse for Loudoun County Public Schools.

The school district shrugs off criticism with a protectionist approach to its problems. It rejects anti-discrimination policies addressing vulnerable minorities, students and employees alike. It thumbs it’s nose at recommendations from Virginia’s attorney general, the ACLU and community leaders (see letter below). And it ignores the same anti-discrimination policies that have been adopted by other school districts in Virginia, including neighboring Fairfax County.

Moreover, when asked for simple explanations about incidents involving students or educators, school officials go mum. They defend silence over any explanation, fostering rumors and suspicions. Is there a basis to allegations of sexual misconduct against students by a former band director? Why did a beloved principal suddenly and inexplicably take leave from his job? What did administrators know about these situations? How did they address them?

The community is entitled to know.

The optics are ugly. An unfavorable spotlight now shines on the School Board and the district’s schools administration as it confronts a burgeoning budget that rises steadily above $1 billion.

Does the community receive assurances from school leaders that public education in Loudoun is under control? No. The superintendent of schools says nothing. That is until he asks for more money in the budget for county schools.

Funding a budget that exceeds $1 billion -- roughly half of county government expenditures -- should bring scrutiny, due diligence and accountability. The county budget process now affords the school district a chance to justify its expensive funding request to taxpayers with full and honest disclosure of its policies, programs, procedures and, yes, problems. A public vetting is the only way to move beyond protectionism to a responsible, financially prudent plan for our schools.

School leaders should not forget who funds our schools. No, it’s not the Board of Supervisors. It’s the county’s taxpayers. And taxpayers demand a full accounting of how the most public of our community institutions is managed.


Comments


“[Eric William]‘s knowledge of instructional leadership is admirable as well as his understanding and application of technology, not only for instructional purposes but for communication with the public as well.”
—Jill Turgeon, 2014

The superintendent of schools says nothing.


Where was the LTM Editorial board the last several years when LCPS were asking for funds approaching a billion?  It’s about time.  Thank you!


Another great editorial.

Some more questions that should be answered:

1. Was LCPS maintaining a $20M slush fund to be used to buy goodies at the end of the year?  It appears the appropriated $1,050M FY17 budget was reduced to a baseline of $1,031M for calculating the FY18 budget.  That’s an implicit acknowledgement that LCPS overestimated (intentionally I might add) its FY17 funding request so leftover funding would allow it to purchase things like turf fields.

2. How does LCPS recruiting and retention in all areas shape up?  Is attrition lower for LCPS than other districts in areas like teachers? Is it higher for bus drivers?  Why are we increasing the pay scales of teachers when bus drivers are understaffed and our teachers earn more than Fairfax over a career and via their pensions?  Is it because 44% of our school board have spouses who directly benefit from such teacher pay raises?

3. Why won’t LCSB allow independent investigations of itself and LCPS administrators over the recent scandals?

4. Why won’t LCSB even publicly acknowledge that 4 of its 9 members were found to have violated the law by the Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney?

Is there anybody that believes LCPS/LCSB is transparent?

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