As the days wind down to the adoption by the Falls Church City Council of its coming fiscal year budget, while there has been some loud bemoaning of a new tax rate hike, much of that, if not all, is in the process of being whittled away without undermining the goals of the School Board for maintaining and advancing the superior quality of its school system.
With all due respect, we’ve watched over two dozen annual budget deliberation processes in Falls Church, and there has never been one yet where the claim was not made that a tax hike would drive people out of the City for an inability to pay. There have been no credible statistics on this claim, even while anti-tax advocates have demanded the most detailed data on how lower salaries have caused prospective quality teachers to leave the Falls Church system for higher paying jobs as nearby as Arlington, and such data has been provided.
We don’t enjoy paying taxes any more than anyone else. But there is an old adage that says, “You get what you pay for.” Some in Falls Church may claim that since they don’t have children in the school system, any portion of their taxes that go to the schools offer them nothing in return. Nothing could be further from the truth, in fact.
We all owe the freedoms and lifestyles we enjoy to the ability of intelligent, well-educated and thoughtful people to steer our massive ship of state generally in the right direction. Those people all come from somewhere, and it is almost always from the American commitment to a free, universal, scientifically-grounded education. In other words, our modest Falls Church school system is the single best protection for all of us, with kids or not, to continue to enjoy a good quality of life, and moreover, to be able to aspire to the advancement of peace, justice and human rights in this land and across the globe.
This is a lot to say for any community, that its main product, its main export, so to speak, is the prospect for a better world through the K-12 education of all the young who come to its doors. Falls Church could not be held in higher esteem than on this account, in our view. Uniquely, while most other jurisdictions account for their existence through the maintenance of their core services and industries that serve their populations, and export goods and materials to a wider realm, there are few who can claim the role of Falls Church, who as much as any, claims as its sole “value added” to the world to be the benefits that a well-educated population brings.
It is unfortunate that at budget time, education is viewed in a dollars-and-cents way, value for families with kids and a liability for those without. It misses the bigger picture, which in Falls Church’s case, is really quite big.