The Prince William County School Board’s abdication of responsibility in this current budget cycle shows their refusal to manage our crucial investment in our students’ future and is an outrage to county families.[read_more]
Every year, citizens of Prince William County pay almost 60% of their property taxes to educating the children in our county. Educating the next generation is perhaps the most important responsibility of this county that will determine our future. We have an obligation to do the best job possible to prepare students for college or vocational opportunities.
Currently, Prince William County educates almost 86,000 students on approximately $1 billion. This money must be managed effectively to ensure our students receive the best possible education. Every four years, Prince William County residents vote for their elected representatives to the School Board who they trust to prioritize funding to ensure our students are prepared for the future.
This year, the School Board faced tough decisions with its budget. Citizens across the county joined in the discussion about where funds could be saved and put toward priorities and critical unmet needs. The budget was analyzed, ideas were formed, board members were prepared – and then only one idea was brought up at the work session.
Through the budget process, School Staff lobbied for increased funding by threatening cuts to programs including specialty programs, full day kindergarten, bussing, school maintenance, and other essentials. However, at the Wednesday March 11, work session, the deficit was resolved in five minutes through adjustments including admitting they had been intentionally padding savings in a budget item.
While the budget gap was quickly resolved, School Board members were pressured out of presenting their ideas for prioritizing spending that would lead to long term savings and critical investments in our children. While one proposal from Alyson Saterwhite and Gil Trenum to increase critical special needs staffing was passed, no other proposals were offered. The members of the School Board were silenced by the chairman who insured the budget process was dictated by unelected bureaucrats and administrators. Our elected officials abdicated their responsibility to oversee the budget process and manage our investment in the system.
When elected school board members default to staff, the people have no way to insure their interests are being heard.
Their approval of a balanced budget at the work session only kicked the can down the road for the hard decisions on prioritizing spending and investing in our future. The School Board refused to make sure that the tax dollars of Prince William County residents were being spent in the best way possible. At work or at home, staying within budget isn’t an accomplishment – it’s an expectation. It is how wisely that budget is spent that matters. Similarly, the School Board balancing a budget is not an accomplishment. It is a requirement. What is needed is making sure the money spent is educating our children as effectively as possible.
The purpose of the School Board isn’t just to rubber stamp budgets given to them by staff. The Board of Supervisors could do that just fine without them. We elect our School Board members to face the important duty of establishing priorities and critically examining spending and programs to make sure they are accomplishing the priorities.
Parents should expect their School Board members to do everything possible to ensure their children are being educated in an effective manner – one that prepares them to be our next generation of leaders. Taxpayers should expect their School Board members to effectively manage the investment made in the county. Simply rubberstamping budgets created by staff accomplishes neither.
This election cycle ask your School Board members what they are doing to protect your investment in our children’s future and consider whether you can truly trust them to represent you, your children, and our future.
Willie Deutsch is a candidate for School Board for the Coles District seat. He is committed to being a tireless advocate for our taxpayers and students. You can see more about him at votewillie.com.