Local Commentary

The Little City Weed

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The independent nature Falls Church City schools continues to come under attack as council members elected last year with the endorsement of local Republican Party were forced to acknowledge they have been sending private emails to school officials questioning specific school budget line items.

 

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The independent nature Falls Church City schools continues to come under attack as council members elected last year with the endorsement of local Republican Party were forced to acknowledge they have been sending private emails to school officials questioning specific school budget line items.

At the request of colleagues who were surprised to learn of their discussions, council members Ira Kaylin and Johanna Barry shared private emails they sent to school officials questioning how schools accounted for teacher and staff salaries, aspects of the International Bachelorette program, and asking whether or not a school breakfast program was really necessary.

In a March 15, 2011 email from Johanna Barry to School Board Chair Joan Wodiska, Ms. Barry questioned the need for school breakfasts: “… I continue to be surprised that we have a significant number of residents unable to provide regular meals. It may be true, but I would like to know how many of our 2000 plus students are in this situation. …”

Ms. Barry went on to question the per-pupil spending ratios used in the school budget. Barry requested officials distinguish between cost for in-classroom teachers and administrators, adding: “… please understand that I am not suggesting that one position is any more meritorious than the other (except for librarian which my mother was….) but if we are going to be absolutely straight with our rhetoric, people need to understand the difference between classroom instruction and the overhead (as critical as it is) that accompanies it. …”

After the last city election, the partisan endorsement of Kaylin and Barry was reported locally. See https://www.fcnp.com/commentary/local/7220-tlc026.html. (‘…The headline of the conservative Virginia Values Voter PAC website shouted the story: Local Elections Prove Successful for GOP. The article explained in Falls Church ‘… two Republican-endorsed candidates [Barry and Kaylin] won seats on the town council …’ thanks to the endorsement of the local Republican committee, and that as fiscal conservatives Kaylin and Barry will ‘definitely bring accountability to the town council.’). Kaylin and Barry denied knowing about the Republican endorsement. The conservative PAC removed the story without correction or retraction once it was reported. The local Republican committee continues its involvement in local politics with its web site message that “irresponsible spending and poor fiscal management [by Democrats in Falls Church]” is undermining the viability of the city.

In 1992 Virginia became the last state in the country to allow elected school boards. Appointments to school boards from council and political bosses had been a staple of Jim Crow and Massive Resistance era politics in Virginia with anti-integration interests intent on controlling schools. (See http://acluva.org/315/why-we-have-and-should-have-elected-school-boards-in-virginia/).

Since Falls Church began electing its school board in 1994, city council has followed a policy of not intervening in specific school budget policy. Council candidates do not campaign on school operational issues and council is not charged with running the schools.

The independent nature of schools has served an important purpose of encouraging good local government and of breaking down a history of ugly hegemony in Virginia.  Good ideas which should be loudly reinforced in Falls Church.

 


Michael Gardner is a quixotic citizen and founder of the Blueweeds community blog.