Local Commentary

Editorial: Anger Vs. School Board Misguided

It was a truly amazing defense of the ways in which the entire Falls Church School Systems has been infused with the laudable values and goals of the International Baccalaureate (IB) educational program presented by the principals of all four of the City’s schools before the F.C. School Board Tuesday night. In our 25 years covering the affairs of Falls Church on a weekly basis, and always being in staunch support of the City’s youth through support of its schools, we’ve never experienced anything like what those four principals, and two assistant principals, brought to the School Board and chambers filled with parents and teachers Tuesday night.

Our hope is that positive message gets conveyed to the entire community. When all the talk of tight budgets and tax rates are set aside, what those principals conveyed was what it is all about when the talk is about the extraordinary benefits of the Falls Church School system and why parents want their children to be educated by it.

This event helped to show that much of the frustration and anger being expressed by parents against the schools’ leadership, in the face of the School Board’s challenge to find $1 million in cuts mandated by a 4-3 vote of the City Council last month, has been misguided at best.

The chambers at City Hall packed each of the last two weeks with parents and teachers angry about how the School Board began its process to find the $1 million in cuts has been in sharp contrast to the almost no people who attended town halls and hearings on the City’s budget when the Council was making its decision to cut a million from the schools earlier this spring.

Had that same energy been directed to alter just one City Council member’s vote (it came down to a 4-3 vote to cut the schools’ request) then all the agonizing now could have been avoided about squeezing nickels and dimes out of a very very tight school budget. Sadly, many have let the Council off the hook while taking out their frustrations on the School Board and administration when the four in the majority on the Council did not take seriously enough just how tight the School Board budget request was, but instead was dead set to allay a two-cent tax rate hike.

But Fairfax County’s tax rate leaped by four cents this spring, and the reason was the explosive population growth (and student growth) in the context of a stagnant regional economy. Despite the commercial boom in Tysons Corner, Fairfax had to raise its taxes by twice the amount Falls Church’s city manager recommended.

Even so, the F.C. Council had options to a tax increase, like shaving one percent off the City’s bloated fund balance or auditing the assessor’s dubious claim that there was no appreciation of residential values in 2015. But no one pushed the Council to do this, so instead it blithely cut the schools.