Local Commentary

Editorial: What Will Foust Do for Mt. Daniel?

Knowing what kind of rise it would get out of just about everybody, the Washington Post’s coverage yesterday of a preliminary set of options put out by a 36-member citizen task force on how to shave from $50 to $100 million from the Fairfax County Schools’ budget, focused its big headline on the idea of cuts to high school athletic programs.

“Fairfax Schools May Weigh Sports Cuts” blared the giant headline, and it got the hoped-for attention, even though in the text of the article, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chair Sharon Bulova called it “alarmist rhetoric,” adding, “Eliminating high school athletics is just not going to happen.”
Way, way in the background, in the same report on the early draft of the citizens’ report are other potential cutbacks, such as shutting down high school yearbook, school newspaper, music and drama programs, and middle school afterschool programs. Also, it proposes cutting preschool to all children except those requiring special education, and cuts that would disproportionately hit high-poverty schools and teachers of English language programs.

These kind of cuts from somewhere will be required next spring even with a three-percent revenue increase for the schools’ overall $2.6 billion budget. Already, a salary increase for teachers in the fight to remain competitive for good teachers, a commitment to smaller class sizes are offset by things like enrollment surge for the system’s 187,000 students, an expected nearly $20 million drop in state funding, and the need for an additional $46 million for teacher retirement and health benefits.

The City of Falls Church’s school system faces many of its own budget woes, especially in the face of extraordinary enrollment growth, and Fairfax has hardly been the slightest empathetic as its Planning Commission is now mulling denying the City an expansion and renovation of F.C.’s Mt. Daniel Elementary School.

It’s not as if Falls Church comes hat in hand with its troubles. Fairfax has crises confronting its school system that are quite bad in themselves. You’d think a little collaboration to offer some relief wherever possible would be in order, especially when it comes to education, and the opportunities or not for the youngest students.

But apparently this is not the case when it comes to Fairfax-Falls Church relations, which have resembled a David vs. Goliath scenario for a long time (see story on the county’s efforts over more than 30 years to take over the City’s water system in this edition) to the exclusion of all else.

From our perspective, this case comes right down to what Fairfax’s Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust is willing to do. Will he buck the narrow-minded McLean Citizens Association in the name of education and weigh in for the Mt. Daniel project that’s funded and ready to go, or won’t he? As a man who’s run for Congress, and will again, his priority should be education in general, not pressures from a local citizens group.