Local Commentary

Editorial: The Importance of Income Parity

The news reported by a consultant to Falls Church City Hall last week, and spelled out to the City Council, was that for a mere $64,712 in the coming fiscal year, all City employee positions will be fully comparable, in terms of compensation levels, with those of the City’s surrounding jurisdictions of Fairfax and Arlington counties.

This is great news, meaning that for a small investment, City officials will be able to compete for the hiring and retention of the best employees without worrying about them jumping ship to go to work in a nearby jurisdiction maybe just a few blocks away.

Would that the same holds for City teachers and school administrators!

That’s especially important given the value that the City’s highly esteemed school system provides for every homeowner and land owner, through appreciated land values usually given as about 15 percent.

The fact is that every year, the Falls Church School System has had to battle, in the context of its own record enrollment growth, taxpayers and those under their sway at City Hall who’ve firmly resisted the kind of resources it needs to be competitive.

The main goal of the School Board’s budget deliberations this year is to close the gap – not to attain equity but only to close the gap – in compensation disparities between City and Arlington and Fairfax school employees.

This is what it is all about for Falls Church school advocates: not wanting a disproportionate share of the City’s resources, but wanting only enough to impede a brain drain of the best talent from the school system to better paying jobs in Arlington and Fairfax.

It is distressing to us how few people at City Hall, even on the City Council, want to hear anything about this. They look at the bottom line of what the schools may or may not ask for, and simply say, “Too much!”

That is no way to run a railroad, especially one that is tasked with the fragile maintenance of its greatest success story, the reputation of its schools.
The school administration has gone to great lengths to produce the documents showing, in every pay level of school teachers accounting for their educational achievement levels, their years of experience and other important factors, how the Falls Church pay scales measure up to Arlington and Fairfax.

In some categories, the disparities are too big for anyone, much less a teacher, to ignore.

The plain fact is that if the City is to survive long term, it must be responsible for maintaining the quality of its schools. If not, and the City’s schools begin to fall behind its neighbors’ in any significant way, then the City will go from a highly desired place to live to a veritable slum.

There are other small jurisdictions in this wider region where this has happened. The City’s leadership and citizens, alike, are tasked with making sure it doesn’t happen here.