Ladies and Gentlemen:
First, thanks for the job that you do working to preserve, protect, and defend the liberties and prosperity of Loudoun County citizens.
Second, I know that you receive a lot of emails on the topic of “fully funding our schools,” and that a vast majority of these are in the “pro” category.
You see, those who seek to pressure the Board of Supervisors into raising taxes (only 73 cents a day!) are the same people who tell you that everything is too expensive so they can’t afford to pay more in extracurricular user fees. They would rather, without any real acknowledgement of the real numbers seek to make sure EVERYONE pays more…so that they can receive more…or pay less.
That’s OK. It’s proper and good that citizens advocate to their elected representatives in a way that reflects their own enlightened self-interest. Democracy is (marginally) useful in that regard.
It makes sense for teachers to want their pay increased. It makes sense for parents to want to pay less in user fees. It makes sense for PTAs to not want to have to raise as much money in bake sales.
It’s logical and reasonable to expect that anyone who spends time in a classroom should seek to improve the lives of those who are running those classrooms.
But I’m not going to talk to you about the numbers. You’re all familiar with them. You know what’s in your control and what is not.
I want to talk about who isn’t reaching out to you. Who not only isn’t there at public hearings, but is not bothering to send you an email or call your offices.
Let’s talk about a small business owner who still hasn’t recovered from the downturn in 2007. He has not only laid off as many people as he can, but he has also had to cut 10% from his employees’ salaries (who have a higher workload), with no sign of being able to raise them. He’s cut his own salary as well…but his taxes keep going up.
Let’s talk about a mom whose child graduated from the Loudoun Academy of Science and didn’t make it through their first year in college because they couldn’t handle the math. How much should the teachers be paid who ushered through someone — with good grades, of course — without basic preparation in math? How many Loudoun County graduates have to take “College Algebra” (which for those of you who don’t know, is taught in the EIGHTH GRADE)? How many of those teachers are getting “step increases?” Do we know which ones failed these graduates (by giving students without the right basics good grades anyway) and which ones are doing their jobs in educating and holding the students accountable for their success?
Speaking of, let’s talk about the teacher who feels like a cog in a factory wheel every day. Grinding away in 15 minute increments so she can fill out whatever paperwork her “team leader” collects at the end of the week while the dreams of molding young minds through her own creativity and imagination and inspiration seems like a distant memory. Is she getting everything she seeks out of employment in LCPS? The question is not only what salary it will take to keep her, but what will it take to allow her to do her job and feel fulfillment from it? Is she getting a “step increase?” Don’t know. Would it solve any real problems if she did? Maybe she’ll be able to get those movie channels on her cable…eat out an extra time or two a month? Will that keep her from changing professions so that her talents can be adequately appreciated? Doubt it.
How about the retired citizen who volunteers at the local homeless shelter, at her church, at a pregnancy crisis center, and manages to squeak by on SS and her husband’s pension. Is she aware that she lives in the “richest county in the known universe?” Maybe. She IS aware that her children and grandchildren can’t afford to live here since real estate is still inflated with bad planning and zoning practices. Because of this she rarely sees them. But why should she move? She feels responsible for other people’s children and grandchildren. It’s how she was raised. What does “only $20 a month” mean to her? It could mean 20 books at the discount store that she could buy for the worlds’ unofficial teachers: parents of young children that she meets in her volunteer activities. Who knows. But it’s her money first.
What about the young Sheriff’s deputy with a family, who insists on living in the county which he is paid to protect. How does his pay stack up with other local jurisdictions? Are we seeing an exodus of cops to other counties? Does anyone know? I don’t.
How about the commuter? Moved to the DC area for a government-related job. Looked at the school systems, sure, (even though he hasn’t a family yet) but decided on Loudoun County to live based on a variety of factors. But he’s here for the job. He fights an hour and a half of traffic (each way) to get to it because he managed to get an affordable place to rent here. He’d like to stay here, find a nice girl, get a house, settle down, raise rugrats. His family moved around a lot, so he wants to put down roots…he’s involved in the “young professionals” world. Has some entrepreneurial ideas which would create jobs here in the county and give him that 2 1/2 hours a day back. Can he afford the real estate costs for his business? Can he afford to pay the salaries he needs to pay? Thinking of owning a house… commercial property… you think he scratches his head when he hears that “only” an 8% increase for a 3% increase in enrollment is painted as a pathway to Armageddon? Or do you think he sees that as more than reasonable with an equalized tax rate?
Lastly, I’ll tell you about a father who owns a small business here in Loudoun, and after keeping his child in private school for kindergarten, he and his wife managed one year with their son in the kid factory. The son is a talker, very social, and started first grade testing way ahead…getting a lot of “E”s and a few “M”s. He also started getting a lot of color-coded cards every day for his talkative nature. The parents watched as their son’s behavior improved, his performance declined.
The son who at the age of 4 could do multiplication in his head, was now more interested in Art and Music than he was reading and math. “E”s turned to “M”s and “M”s turned to “P”s. His testing results never budged, but the light of learning faded to dim.
The son is now in a private second grade class (less than half the class size for 30% less money a year — but of course all out of his parents’ pocket.) He is doing math work that an average fourth grader does in LCPS. And has a keen and abiding interest in history and science. He loves learning again (to include the aforementioned Art and Music).
The last example is, of course, yours truly, but all these people are real, and you can multiply each of them by 100 or more and begin to recognize the people who voted for you (or at least the vast majority of you).
The ones who are pressuring “full-funding” without an eye for the real problems and real solutions may or may not have voted for you. If you were running on fiscal accountability and reigning in the madness of our budget, they certainly didn’t work for you, or tell all their friends to vote for you, knock doors, stuff envelopes, and make phone calls. Many of them work against you daily and no matter how much they say “remember in [next] November” they will most likely support candidates who blindly hand out whatever is asked for, and will use the term “sustainability” in a MONSTROUSLY different, and twisted, context, than what you use it to mean.
You see there is an old and transfixed mindset at play here in Loudoun County — and indeed all over the country — regardless of party and purported “understanding about frugality”, which seeks to convince us all of two things:
1) That the administration (in this case the school administration, but it applies to regulators and bureaucracies of all kinds) is more well-meaning and selfless, indeed more fundamentally virtuous, and in all ways more knowledgeable and wise, than any player in the private sector (grandmas, job creators, volunteers, parents…anyone).
2) That the future belongs to the educators and planners. Of course we can’t educate our own children. Of course, less barriers to entry for business owners (through less taxes and regulation) can’t be made the focal point of economic growth and job creation. EVERYONE moves here for the schools (and “quality of life” as defined by them). ALL businesses are started here because our graduates are so well educated. ALL roads lead to the planners. EVERY extra expense in the public sector is an “investment,” but every extra expense (not spent because it’s taxed) in the private sector is a luxury that the proponents of the status quo — and that’s what we’re talking about, status quo — graciously say they are willing to go without, because they just care more. It’s about the children, you see. And every dime you take away from the planners and well-meaning educrats you’re taking from the childrens’ future success and prosperity. Generations of happiness depend on every penny and their control of same. You can’t see this, but (see number one) they do.
These two assumptions, this technocratic mindset, is not only flawed and ignorant economically. It is dangerous philosophically. You think these ideas don’t make their way into the classroom? They believe they own the future, because in many ways they do.
Should they? Is there evidence that we’re really getting a return on our supposed investment? Not sure. I’m skeptical, and so are the other people cited here.
So why are these moms, dads, grandmas, business owners, commuters, budding entrepreneurs…not showing up and sending emails?
Because they’ve done their jobs. They voted for you. They don’t feel they need to show up. They trust you to do the right thing. They know, as you do, how much downward pressure is going to be required to finally reform our school system. They know the status quo cannot continue to work.
They know the difference between investments and expenses, between actual returns on that investment and the circular reasoning of “full funding.”
They know what makes kids successful and what doesn’t.
They know what scare tactics look like, and they know how rational adults should respond to them.
They expect you to do what you were elected to do.
I have confidence you will.
The equalized tax rate of $1.155 is entirely too generous, but given the portion of the current budget increase which is (at least in a way, at the moment) out of the School Board’s hands, it’s understandable that you would be inclined to offer it anyway. If you can manage less, I would encourage it, but not a penny more.
Thank you for your time and attention.
Yours in Liberty,