If we’re to believe our school board members and every other person who works for PWCS, the school division’s finances are at the point where we might have to cut or eliminate non-core services in the coming years; that to balance the budget things like specialty programs, sending students to TJ, elementary strings, and middle school sports might have to be eliminated.
I sat through the budget discussions last spring and listened to department head after department head bemoan how little money there was to maintain current service levels. I heard how PWCS is understaffing special ed and certain student services to the extent that our children’s education is at risk. I had a conversation with a senior level school division administrator about serious problems they know exist in one of our programs for mathematically advanced students, and listened as he told me that they didn’t have the staff to design and implement any sort of changes to the program. Every school board member just attended a joint meeting with the BOCS about reducing class sizes where it was agreed that taxes might have to be increased to bring class sizes down.
If the school division’s finances are stretched as tightly as they say, why do so many school board members still believe the pool is a wise choice? The school pool will cost the school division approximately $1 million a year, after user fees are deducted. The total costs of the pool are in the $1.5 - $1.8 million range with user fees covering $500,000 – $800,000 of those costs. That money to pay those expenses will come from our allocation of county tax receipts, and, as we’ve heard for everyone employed by or affiliated with the school division, the school division is broke and can barely afford basic instructional supplies. Yet Dr Otiagbe, Mrs Jessie, Mrs Covington, and Chairman Johns still believe that spending $1 million a year for the school pool is a wise decision.
Why? They know that money doesn’t grow on trees and must realize how little room there is in the school division’s budget for luxuries like a school pool. Yet they still think it’s a good decision and refuse to say why.
This week Dr Otaigbe said he thinks every PWC school student should be given an iPad. PWCS officials implied that the only thing holding us back was our budget. Are you kidding me! Just so I understand, if PWCS had Fairfax’s budget, we’d be buying and issuing iPad or lap books for all of our students? Seriously? That’s roughly $17 – $34 million.
Classrooms in many of our schools are too large to manage. Our teachers haven’t gotten the salary increases they deserve and may not be getting them in the coming years as the state requires school districts to pay back the deliberate underfunding of the VRS. Schools have been rationing things like toner and paper. But spending $1 million a year on a pool is a wise use of funds and buying iPads for students is a necessity.
I can’t imagine that these school board members are that stupid. I was willing to give these folks the benefit of the doubt. I figured maybe they had inside information that indicated that the school division would be getting more money from who knows where. Maybe someone bought a winning lotto ticket with PWCS money so now the school division has several hundred million it didn’t expect. Because barring that, I don’t know how the school division can pay for all these nice to haves.
Unless there’s something else at play.
At the joint school board / BOCS meeting, the BOCS agreed that we may need to increase taxes to adequately fund our schools. Maybe these school board members expect that the tax increase will be sufficient to fund their pet projects, so they don’t need to worry about fiscal restraint. The pool, iPads for students, increased spending on conferences and travel without justifying the expenditure, $100 million on a high school, astro-turf fields – all are perfectly fine as long as someone is available to pay for it.
It’s not that the PWC School Board isn’t serious about education, it’s that they’ve found their sugar daddy to pay for their playthings, and it’s us.