Education Supporters?

PASS Parents and Friends ~
(Dan here.)

As we begin election season, I thought I’d lay out exactly what PASS does and doesn’t do with respect to campaigns and elections. One of our goals is to help create better-informed and more engaged voters among parents and other school supporters, and we try to provide them with information and encouragement toward that goal. We hope that that, in turn, will lead to both elected officials and public policies that benefit local education. Also, because local public policy is what we are best positioned to affect, we do not engage on state or federal policy, because such engagement would strain our coalition.

What PASS (the 501(c)(4) corporation) does not do is tell you to vote for candidate X or vote against candidate Y. The people on our board have some pretty strong preferences in that area, and we work hard to advance those preferences in other ways. (I just spent the whole afternoon knocking on doors for a candidate.) But we don’t do that here. We could legally, but it isn’t what PASS was created to be.

But sometimes, the facts make that line hard to maintain, and this is one of those circumstances. We are seeing campaign literature in which candidates make claims to be supporters of local education. To help put those in perspective, I would like to draw your attention to what I view as a seminal moment in last year’s budget cycle.

This year, SCPS is expected to face about $1 million in cost increases that we largely can’t control — the state demanding larger contributions to the Virginia Retirement System, increased costs for employee health insurance, etc. Back in the spring, Board of Supervisors Chairman Conrad Helsley had proposed an SCPS budget that would have given SCPS the same amount as last year, plus $1 million to cover the additional costs. (No cost-of-living adjustments for employees, etc.)

At that point Supervisor Cindy Bailey offered a motion to withdraw the $1 million and cut an additional $3 million from operations and spend it on CIP. Marsha Shruntz then expressed support for it. Fortunately, Rich Walker (who usually votes with them) didn’t go along, nor did the other three Supervisors. (You can listen for yourself below— it take less than a minute.) It is difficult to say what SCPS would have to do to accommodate such a cut in operations. Much of our operations budget is matched by state money, so we almost certainly would have lost a lot of state money. Basically, SCPS would have to discontinue almost everything optional, and then look at layoffs or salary cuts.

You will doubtless receive campaign literature in which candidates claim to support the schools. You are now better equipped to evaluate it.

Here is a link to the Board Audio:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7UoiQ6QCMZxU1hQaFk0R0lTaEcxTkoxVlk0bmRudUEzQnh3/view

Dan Walsh

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