Letters to the Editor: April 10 – 16, 2014
City Should Explore School Merger with Fairfax Co.
A major issue facing the City is the challenge of increasing the income at a pace to meet the increasing costs of the school system, due to increasing student enrollment. One option is to merge our school system with Fairfax County. Proponents of the status quo argue that our students perform extraordinarily well, and combining the systems would have a deleterious effect.
But is that a valid argument? A key factor in how well students perform is their community and family environment, in particular the support of their parents. And a key factor in this support is the education level of the parents. Falls Church has one of the highest education levels in the country, but there are also similar areas in Fairfax and Arlington Counties.
How does our system rank with others in the area? School Digger, based on the most recent SOL scores, ranks Thomas Jefferson 1, Langley 6, Marshall 9, and George Mason 26. Northern Virginia Magazine rates Thomas Jefferson 1, Langley 2, McLean 3, and George Mason 4.
Clearly, there should be no concern that our high school students would suffer from being incorporated into Fairfax County. Regarding elementary and middle schools, my personal experience over the last few years, convinces me that there is no basis for concern there either.
How significant would combining our school district with Fairfax’s be? Juergen Tooren, in his Commentary in the April 3 issue of the News-Press, estimated the savings could be as high as $9.1 million. This should be compared with the proposed budget increase for FY 2015 of $5.4 million. And the effective tax rate for Falls Church is 13% higher than Fairfax County and 25% higher than Fairfax City.
There are no obvious reasons why the school systems should not be combined. I urge the City to immediately implement a study with Fairfax County to determine the pros and cons of a merger.
City of F.C. Is Close to Being Unviable
One might not think it unfair to conclude that either Falls Church City has a conscious policy to drive all but the wealthiest elderly from the city, or that there is a conscious acceptance of the elderly being driven from the city as collateral damage – with tax increases taking the metaphorical place of drone strikes, accomplishing some desirable objectives with unfortunate but inescapable side effects.
My view is that we collectively have demonstrated that Falls Church is very close to being unviable as it now operates, specifically a school system that we insist must be the best in the nation. Our tax base is too small to continue to support the schools that we have chosen to put into place. Even our ambitious development plans, inviting as most do ever more children into the city, seem unlikely to generate sufficient funds to relieve our tax burden in the foreseeable future. Continuing on the path we’re on means many of us will have to move out.
But I am not ready to accept this dire prospect as inevitable. Some of my neighbors are calling for our merging with Fairfax or Arlington. At the very least, we should explore the notion of placing our school system under one of the neighboring counties. Fairfax has high schools that regularly place higher than ours; TJ is probably the best high school in the country. The schools in several of the independent cities in Fairfax are under the county, and all have tax rates that are lower than ours.
Why not look into this alternative?
Also Puzzled By City’s New Stormwater Policy
I share Harry Rissetto’s puzzlement in the stormwater definition noted in last week’s Letters to the Editor. Rooftops of homes, garages, shed/storage containers are considered impervious. My question to those defining pervious and impervious surfaces is ‘Which one of you would like to live in a house with pervious rooftop, have a garage with pervious rooftop, have a shed/storage container with pervious roof top?’
Impervious ground surfaces can be improved upon to be more pervious, but rooftops to be pervious?
Talk about a leaky roof.
Let’s Create a Monarch Station On W&OD Trail
When was the last time you saw a monarch butterfly in Falls Church City? Probably not for a while, since these big beautiful butterflies are increasingly rare and endangered.
Each year, heroic monarch butterflies fly up to 2,000 miles from wintering areas in Mexico to northern summer range in eastern Canada. Several generations of monarch are born on these trips. The female lays her eggs on the underside of a milkweed leaf and the larvae and caterpillars feed on the leaves until they metamorphose into butterflies and continue the journey.
The problem is that plants of the milkweed family (Butterfly Weed, Common Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed) that are essential to monarch breeding have disappeared from our area. There are also much fewer wildflower nectar plants (Indian Blanket, Purple Coneflower, Joe Pie Weed, Scarlet Sage, Zinnia, Dahlia) that sustain the butterflies.
What can we do? Monarch Watch, an educational outreach program (www.monarchwatch.org), recommends the creation of monarch way stations. These are wildflower gardens of milkweed and nectar plants that become way stations for monarchs to rest, eat, and breed during their annual migrations.
This brings me to our wonderful W&OD bicycle trail in Falls Church City that is a haven for all sorts of walkers, runners, and bikers. The park is great for outdoor exercise, but it is pretty much an ecological disaster that is overrun by vines and other invasive species and is transformed by neighboring homes into a variety of lawn, garden, and other uses.
Why not give the W&OD Regional Park in Falls Church City a new function as a monarch way station? The City of Falls Church and the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority could work with homeowners along the park to create a major monarch way station. We could bring the lovely monarch butterflies back to Falls Church City and at the same time we could improve the beauty of the W&OD park.
Kudos for FCNP Column on Church Defectors
Your column “Church Defectors Acted Immorally” was excellent; however, a couple of points need to be elaborated. First, what a waste of time and money must have been realized by the defectors after a seven year losing court fight and over nothing other than their belief that loving their neighbor was a commandment to be selective.
Foreign aid to Africa is one thing; but, outside of their cult, Falls Church not only wonders where they came from, but, now, what country they chose for their new version of the Bible.
Robert T. Mansker
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