Although we’ve never presumed that the weekly poll question in the News-Press resembles anything like a scientific measurement of anything, with the only constraint being that only one vote can be recorded per computer, we hope the questions are thought-provoking and worthy of stimulating conversation.
This week’s question goes to the public’s perception of how important, or not, is it for Falls Church teachers to have salaries and benefits that are comparable to a neighboring jurisdiction, in Falls Church’s case, being Arlington.
Of course, it can be argued that a much more scientific answer to that question was provided last November, when ostensibly tax-strapped citizens in the Little City voted an overwhelming “yes” to approve bonds for a major renovation and expansion of the Mt. Daniel Elementary School. In that “poll” at the ballot box, voters approved by a landslide the spending of their own money to ensure that students in Falls Church had sufficient resources to pursue a quality education.
We can’t imagine how citizens of this city would be willing to spend their own money on such improved contexts for learning and would not also be willing to help ensure that students also have the best teachers possible in the classroom.
It is a problem far too common in this town that leaders at City Hall cannot see over or beyond the very noisy cacophony of citizen activists who do their best to bloat the Council’s perception of their importance in order to get their way. That’s why things like a general referendum, held in an election cycle where the highest sampling of voters are likely to turn out, can be like a breath of fresh air.
Such was the case for the referendum last November, which provided a wide margin of support for the quality of education of the City’s school children beyond what almost anyone at City Hall would have dared to predict.
Now we have another scenario unfolding in the City government pitting those who want little or no tax rate increases against those who want the City’s teachers to be compensated competitively as an essential means of attracting and retaining the best.
It not an uncommon situation. Many high level government officials in all walks get salaries that may appear bloated, by contrast to their jobs, but it is usually justified because they represent the competitive rate. Often it has less to do with an accurate measure of whether someone is worth what they’re being paid, than it has to do with the need to offer that person a competitive compensation.
In the case of teachers, they are among the most notoriously under-compensated for the social value they provide than any other profession in our society.
It is a shame that in the well-heeled City of Falls Church, with such a tradition of well-deserved pride in its schools, there needs to be a fight over something as basic as teacher salaries.