Hats off to Frank Principi who tried to postpone a decision regarding the federal stimulus money until the next regularly scheduled BOCS meeting on September 14. That sounds like the right thing to do. However, that was not to be. As it stands now, pressed on by the urgings of CXO Melissa Peacor, stimulus funds will be considered during the next fiscal year.

In the first place, this was a mighty important decision to be decided on such short notice. 3 board members were absent: Caddigan, Jenkins and Stewart. The time line is fuzzy. Superintendent Walts wanted to begin hiring up to 180 new teachers. That’s understandable. He has a school system to run and that school system starts up Monday, August 30 with kids coming in the Tuesday after Labor Day. Walts doesn’t have time for the BOCS to grand stand and posture for their upcoming elections in 2011.

If there are strings attached to the stimulus money, then naturally the BOCS needs to be aware. If 3 of them aren’t there….there is a problem right from the git-go. It seems to me that the stimulus fund issue ought to be discussed during the Sept. 14 regular BOCS meeting. The School Board and the Board of Supervisors need to find a more effective way to communicate.

 

If PWC schools do not apply for or take the stimulus money, someone else will take it. The no new taxes crew would have us believe that saying no avoids our liability. That is simply not true. There are kids who need to be educated. Everyone knows that kids in a classroom of 35-40 simply isn’t the best practice.

How much did lobbying by the local Tea Party and their no new taxes or we dump you in the harbor mentality have to do with the decision to vote against the stimulus money?

How many BOCS members have children who either attend or have  attended  Prince William County Schools?

Why doesn’t the BOCS have the their considerations (ordinances, resolutions, etc) read before each vote is taken?  I never know what they are voting on. The yeas and nays get confusing after all the discussion. Perhaps it should become policy that the consideration be read aloud before the final vote.

I was out of town and therefore could not view the meeting. Reading between the lines, it sounds like some supervisors were running scared of the tea party. Please tell me I am wrong. Overcrowding in classrooms will continue to get worse unless new teachers are hired. If Dr. Walts was going to hire 180 new teachers, that should be an indicator of how short handed things really are. I guess it doesn’t matter if your kids don’t go to public school anyway.
The matter should have been postponed until the September 14 meeting.  To do anything else short-changes the students of Prince William County Schools. 


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59 Thoughts to “No Stimulus Funds for PWC Schools — Too bad, kids! Squeeze in!”

  1. @Food

    Teachers retire or move. You balance at the end of the year, just like they did this past year. And sometimes teachers get laid off. It sure wouldn’t be the first time that happened.

    Was there or was there not a tea party presence at the bocs meeting? I heard several people there identify with tea party, whatever that means.

    I expect these contracts would have been written with strong contingencies written on the availablity of grant money. That’s how it is usually done. They don’t usually bring in a herd of SB attorneys for regular contracts that are pretty cut and dry.

  2. Mom

    Overreaction, teaching Walts a lesson, perhaps, but largely irrelevant.

    The real issue is Walts arrogance in underestimating the reaction to his maneuvers. None of this would have occurred had he either played by the rules or done his dirty work on the QT. Had he done things the way he normally does them, ie: take actions and THEN inform the School Board, the teachers would have been hired (I don’t think any will dispute that) and both boards would be painted into a corner. His mistake was the e-mail to the County Exec, an e-mail that forced the issue. I’m not one to extol the virtues of Ms. Peacor, but like a blind squirrel occasionally finding a nut, she actually got this one right.

    This is all about procedure and power of the purse. If we want the Superintendant or the County Exec. to have complete budgetary discretion, then might just as well do away with both the SB and the BOCS.

  3. @Moon-

    Look at your back to back posts…first you state, “The VRS deferment makes me sick, by the way. We don’t really have a balanced budget,” and then in the very next post you state, “Teachers retire or move. You balance at the end of the year, just like they did this past year.”

    How can you claim to be upset about the lack of a balanced budget, then support an action that would make the budget even more out of balance? The three arguments I have seen on this issue can be summed up as follows: 1) hire the teachers immediately, we need them in schools now, worry about the budget impacts later (including whether the grant actually comes and also the impact on future fiscal years); 2) figure out the budget situation first, then decide whether you can hire the teachers even if that means you can’t hire them until next year; and, 3) don’t ever hire the teachers because this is dirty “stimulus” money that should never ever be spent.

    If you are concerned about balanced budgets, I think option 2 or 3 are the best policies. If you think that additional teachers are more important than that, then go with option 1.

    Sure, the contracts would have been contingent…but if the grant was received, both Boards would have been expected to to spend the money. If a member of either Board was concerned about the balanced budget impacts or simply did not support the use of stimulus monies generally, they would have already been locked in or “painted into a corner” as Mom states because the teachers would have already been working (unless they wanted to fire a bunch of teachers in the middle of the school year–I don’t think any politician has the stones to do that!)

    I don’t know if the tea party was at this meeting as I did not see it. But what difference does that make anyway? Were there also people at the meeting supporting the spending? Doesn’t the Board always have a citizen comment period that attracts all kinds of viewpoints?

    I’m not naive enough to say there were no politics here. But you can’t honestly think it is only the Board who is being political, can you?

  4. Food, it makes me sick that the state deferred the VRS obligation and then had the gall to say it was a balanced budget. It really wasn’t. In fact, it was sort of a dishonest way of doing things. That is what makes me sick.

    I have no idea what you are taking about. When the end of the year rolls around, teachers quit. They retire, move, change localities, etc. They leave. If there is no more stimulus money, then the temps take the place of those who left. THAT is what I meant by balancing out.

    I never said I was upset over balanced budgets. It makes me sick that the current administration pretends to have a balanced budget (as per state law) when in fact they are playing funny money. I am disgusted with the administration.

    There is a little too much what if being played out here. Frankly, I think the what ifs are pure BS. That also has not one thing to do with waiting until the Sept 14 meeting to discuss the stimulus package with all the facts on the table, such as was discussed by Milt Johns and put into a motion by Frank Principi.

    I think you are trying to put words in my mouth or second guess my intent. If you are doubt, ask, rather than guess.

    The tea party has as much of a right to their point of view as does anyone else. I also have the right to refer to them as the nay sayers.

    Who else is it that you think is being political other than the tea party and the board of supervisors who want to get re-elected? Surely you don’t think the teachers are making money off this? I know many of the people who spoke. They are in the classrooms day after day and they know the conditions that negatively impact overcrowded classrooms. Tuesday night was not about more money for the teachers. It was about a better learning environment for the children.

    Whether that comes to pass or not would be up to the SB and the bocs looking at budget impact with all the facts in front of them.

    Interesting…Robley Jones warned of this.

  5. and FYI, Mom and I are free to disagree. I am looking at the issue from one end and he is looking at it from the other. And we have flip flopped on who the bad guys are. That happens occassionally.

    And regardless of what happens with Walts, this issue cannot be simply about him. If he is out of control or out of hand, the SB needs to reel him in. That should have nothing to do with finding out the facts and deferring making permanent decisions based on facts rather than trying to vacuum a room in the dark.

    The bocs was not playing with all hands on deck. And I am not sure Peacor was totally correct. There are facts and regs that are still out. That’s the reason the school board needed to meet and the full bocs needed to discuss after perhaps …shock…meeting with the school board.

    The discussion should have been tabled until 9/14. It isn’t about personalities which no one in this county wants to accept. Peacor and Walts are simply 2 people.

  6. Moon-
    I’m sorry, I’m not trying to put words in your mouth. I was simply repeating something you said. Here’s another thing you said (not putting words in your mouth, simply cutting and pasting from your post):

    “I never said I was upset over balanced budgets. It makes me sick that the current administration pretends to have a balanced budget (as per state law) when in fact they are playing funny money. I am disgusted with the administration.”

    Does it make you sick that the school administration used the same accounting trick related to their VRS payment and that they will have to account for this in their future budgets? That’s part of the problem here. The school budget is also “funny money,” and they want to make it even “funnier” by adding 180 teachers with a one time grant. I don’t think that is a “what if,” I think it is a fact.

    Anyway, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one. After all, this is a place for civil debate and not your typical idelogue blog, right? No point in continuing to argue. And I don’t know who Robley Jones is.

  7. Food, there was a post several days ago on a warning from Robley Jones.

    http://www.moonhowlings.net/index.php/2010/08/20/veas-robley-jones-update-2-good-reasons-to-watch-your-school-boards-deliberations/

    What is it that you don’t agree with me on? Do you think that the bocs should have made a decision right there and then with only 5 people present, rather than postponing a vote until 9/14, after the school board met?

    That is actually my one and only strong position on bocs behavior.

    My other strong position is educational. It is that overcrowded classrooms/high teacher/student ratios create bad learning environments. Do you disagree with that?

    I would at least like to know what we are disagreeing on.

    As for what makes me sick…lets take it higher up the food chain than Prince William County. I am disgusted and sickened that the State of Virginia is using VRS as its ATM. Postponing VRS obligations and then claiming to have a balanced budget is dishonest. I blame the governor and the General Assembly.

    I did not realize that all the cities and counties got to defer their VRS obligations also.

    So, to answer your question, NO. The sickened part comes from the state…for allowing it.

    I don’t see the grant money as funny money. The grant money includes payment benefits. VRS contributions are a benefit. So that one doesn’t wash with me.

    I would like to know more. The decision was made without 3/8 of the people and without all the facts regarding the grant rules and regs. Check out the link.

  8. Food, I hope I have made myself clear that I am not a balanced budget freak. I do support the law that Virginia have a balanced budget. However, my outrage is, and has been, that the pension fund is being toyed with and is being used (unconstitutionally, I believe) for purposes other than intended.

    I have howled a great deal over the state ‘borrowing’ from these funds. I realize they have to pay interest etc. However, what happens if the state cannot pay back. I was unaware until I heard Peacor’s report that the localities got to do the same thing. That just imperils VRS even more.

    To touch VRS in any way was dead wrong and McDonnell should not have allowed it. If he were truly a fiscal conservative, he would have not permitted it.

    Consider this part of the discussion unrelated to the grant money. I wanted no misunderstandings over why it makes me sick. It is all about VRS.

  9. Elena

    The only question that needs to be asked is, ” do we need more teachers” ?. If we do, than I really don’t understand all this posturing by the Board. Let’s say for arguments sake that the Walts went about this wrong, I accept that. NOW, lets move on to MH’s point which is that this Board has no right to put off discussing the stimulus money for another years. I find it interesting that no Board member has children in public school, they are all in private or home schooled. I don’t hide behind religious reasons why my kids are not in public school, I don’t like the over crowded class rooms and I hate the SOL’s as a means to create critical thinkers, which, by the way, teaching to a test does not. I also hate the complete disrespect that the public school system recieves.

    I have not listened the hearing yet, but my understanding is that Supervisors had the GALL to actually talk about their concern regarding the federal deficit. WHAT???? Where has their concern been during the almost trillion dollar medicare prescription drug act or two wars, one which I believe was wholly contrived. Where is their outrage over unfunded tax cuts???????? Do they not get what a “stimulus” is? You get people working to “stimulate” the economy which hopefully then will “stimulate” a cycle of real job growth. Ummm, sort of like the “temporary” bush tax cuts that were suppose to sunset after the economy jumpstarted!

    Had the discussion about teachers ONLY revolved around the question of do we need them, then I would not be sceptical. However, that is not what happened. My understanding is that the teachers were TIED to the stimulus money and were not permenant. IF that were the concern of the BOCS, then WORK it out in the next full hearing with ALL supervisors present. Children should not have to be in overcrowded classrooms if there are ways in which to resolve that problem. Seems to me that people dug their heels in on both sides and in the mean time, it is the kids that will suffer the consequences of inaction.

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