The Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

The Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

The Loudoun County School Board voted to extend its agreement with Fairfax County Public Schools to send students to Thomas Jefferson High School of Science and Technology, or TJ, after making two amendments during its Tuesday meeting.

Because Fairfax County chooses to extend the contract on a yearly basis, the Loudoun School Board once again weighed the decision of whether to send another class to TJ next year or discontinue Loudoun’s participation at TJ.

Almost 90 Loudoun residents, including students as young as second-graders, spoke before the board in favor of continuing the agreement with Fairfax County.

Saving money and keeping Loudoun taxpayer dollars in Loudoun was a significant component of the discussion, with both amendments proposed by Chris Croll (Catoctin District) attempting to find a compromise between those wanting to cut the program to save money and those wanting to keep the program.

“We have students who need a more rigorous program than we can offer, however, there are many many families who are concerned about the amount of money we spend,” Croll said.

Croll’s first amendment cut transportation to TJ passed by a 5-4 vote with Joy Maloney (Broad Run District), Beth Huck (At-Large), Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles District) and Vice Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling District) opposed.

Fairfax County Public Schools invoiced LCPS $3.79 million for students this fiscal year, and the board budgeted $500,000 for transportation to TJ. According to LCPS staff, by not providing transportation, the school district would save $1.2 million over the next four years.

However, several board members said this posed an equity issue because it would serve as an additional burden to students from economically disadvantaged families who wish to apply or accepting an admittance offer.

Croll’s second amendment also passed 5-4, with Maloney, Huck, Morse and Sheridan opposed. The amendment limited the number of new students Loudoun would send to TJ to 50. In the past several years, Loudoun has sent between 50-83 students to TJ.

Morse and Maloney spoke against limiting Loudoun’s seats from 110 to 50 because it would take away opportunities from Loudoun students and make the new Academies of Loudoun even more competitive.

Limiting future classes of Loudoun students at TJ to 50 would save $1.2 million over the next four years, according to LCPS staff.

Debbie Rose (Algonkian District) said money not spent on students attending TJ could be used to better serve Loudoun facilities and programs. Croll later added that Loudoun has gifted students at all its schools who are under-served – not just at TJ or the Academies.

Board member Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge District) said for students or families who felt caught off guard by the discussion to end Loudoun’s involvement with TJ, the conversation started at least six years ago when the board purchased land for the Academies of Loudoun.

Loudoun opted to participate at TJ because at the time it was a smaller school system and did not offer secondary gifted education.

“We have since grown greatly,” Turgeon said.

The board ultimately voted 6-3 to renew its contract with Fairfax County as amended, with Turgeon, Rose and Eric Hornberger (Ashburn District) opposed.

(5) comments

jke

I want every student that qualifies for Tj to attend that school and use their education to fix what ails our special education students.

Concerned

An expensive mistake or a big fat lie.

Virginia SGP

The data put out by LCPS was unequivocally false. They assume that any returning TJ student would only cost $5,900 to educate in a Loudoun high school. Yet, for every new enrollee they receive, they ask the taxpayers for $15,240. You can't say one returnee costs $5,900 to inflate the "cost" of TJ and then demand $15,240 for any other new student.

Furthermore, what is obscene is that our school board is so wasteful with our tax dollars. Instead of building a useful Academies, they built a temple to themselves. It has lots of glass and steel and feels sterile. But because they paid so much, it actually costs $21,000 for each kid we send to the Academies (TJ costs between $17-19K in comparison). So not only is the Academies program not equivalent to TJ (dozens fewer classes available) but we pay $2-4K more per kid we send to the Academies of Loudoun.

Overall incompetence and dishonesty once again. This school board spent $75M in teacher raises (that will cost us each and every year to give 10-14% raises of $5-8K per teacher) yet couldn't find it in their wisdom to spend a TOTAL of $500K/year to send all 250 kids to TJ. It would only take a reduction of 1% in that FY20 raise budget (from $75M to $74.2M) to cover the whole cost of TJ.

When the no votes (Hornberger and Turgeon) have spouses set to wallow in the $75M raises, it casts doubt on their priorities -> their spouses over the community's students. It's pathetic.

LoudounClear

Simple question really, does a really smart kid gain anything at all by going to TJ over whatever Loudoun provides? If so, then it would seem to invest in our brightest and keep the TJ program as an option.

DavisB

simple answer - yes. TJ is not the same as the academies and the few students who get to go there get something not available here. Those students who do to the academies get something not offered at TJ. Those students who go to all the other high schools also get educated and prepared for what comes next.

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