Local Commentary

Editorial: Our Schools: We Can Afford Them

There was no reason given, or even hinted, why the majority on the Falls Church School Board voted to shave important dollars out of their Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones’ recommended budget for the coming fiscal year. That is, other than being simply a symbolic pliant gesture to those on the F.C. City Council that will have the final say about how much they will or won’t let the schools have.

It is especially curious given that no one really thinks the Council will rubber stamp the 12.9 percent increase in funding that the School Board voted 5-2 to request. Since they’re not going to approve a 12.9 percent increase, then why should the School Board not forward a budget, at a 14.1 percent increase, that the Schools actually need. The increase would be even higher than that if some important programs the Superintendent decided not to fund were included.

There is a lot of feistiness on the current F.C. School Board, and time was spent at their Tuesday meeting this week rehearsing the credible arguments board members will be challenged to present as the overall city-schools budget now faces seven weeks of intense scrutiny and testing before a final City Council vote on April 22.

But the point was well made that all this will play out with Council and School Board members, alike, unaware of how much the citizens of Falls Church, according to the U.S. Census on balance the wealthiest in the nation, are willing to pay.

Those who show up at public hearings and town halls tend to be the same, noisiest citizens who usually howl the most about high taxes. Such occasions should be valuable for harvesting good new insights and ideas from citizens, but not at all to function as some kind of straw poll of wider sentiment.

There are ultimately two ways to gauge that wider sentiment accurately. The first is conduct a serious poll that reaches beyond the filter of noisy activists. Actually, that would not be all that hard to do, assuming a polling firm could be contracted that is truly impartial with an ability to ask carefully-crafted objective questions. In such polls, the outcome is always a function of how the questions are asked.

The second way is to measure public sentiment through the electoral process. In other words, if the Council raised taxes too much this year, then let the outcome of November City Council and School Board elections reflect that.

It is true that no one likes to have to pay taxes. But anyone not an imbecile knows that their taxes pay for services they receive in exchange, and in that way just as their money goes to pay for things that don’t directly impact them, such as our national defense, so they should pay for the future prosperity and security of their nation by ensuring the next generation is well educated.

Can Falls Church afford to pay for top-quality schools? Why not find out?