Friday, March 07, 2008


Let me get this right.

Brentsville High is overcrowded.

MOST of our county's schools are overcrowded.


Mr. Trenum, what WERE you thinking?

Please use your business background and good brain when representing US.
P. O. Box 389
Manassas, Virginia 20108

DATE: March 5, 2008
REFERENCE: Adequate School Funding

SECOND: Richardson

That the Prince William County School Board communicate to the Prince William County Board of Supervisors that the Prince William County School Board agrees with the substance of the letter presented by the Occoquan District Representative, as amended.

cc: Board of County Supervisors, Superintendent of Schools, County Executive, School Board Members
YES: Covington, Johns, Lattin, Lucas, Otaigbe, Ramirez, Richardson
NO: Trenum
CERTIFIED COPY: __________________________________________________________
Eva Thorpe
March 5, 2008

Adequate School Funding: One Opinion
By Grant Lattin
Member, Prince William County School Board (Occoquan District)

The Prince William County Board of Supervisors will vote this Tuesday to set an advertised tax rate for next year’s budget. The rate they set on Tuesday will be the maximum rate they can approve in April.

As reported in the Potomac News, one member of the Board of County Supervisors said he was concerned that the school’s central office staff is top-heavy. The most recent data from the Educational Research Services shows that per pupil expenditures for central office and school board services in Prince William County are 44 percent below the national average.

This same board member was concerned about a new administration building. This new building is needed for exactly the same good reasons that the Board of Supervisors recently finished building a new county administration office adjacent to the McCoart Building. Much of our central school staff is currently housed at Independent Hill in old trailers and World War II vintage buildings where some employees have to walk a significant distance outside their trailer to another trailer just to use a bathroom.

Last year the county’s schools received $32 million less than anticipated in county funding. The School Board has recently been informed that it must cut an additional $6 million from the Superintendent’s proposed budget during this budget cycle even if the rate is set at the highest rate discussed by the Board of Supervisors this past Tuesday. When State funding is decreasing, we are at risk of not being able to provide the essential educational services that our children require.

Our citizens should know the facts about county revenues. Our county demands from its citizens the lowest revenue per capita in Northern Virginia. The latest data (provided by the county’s staff in October 2007) for Fiscal Year 2005 ranges from a high in Arlington County of $3599 revenue per capita to a low in our county of $2033. Our county's citizens also enjoy one of the highest levels of per capita income in the U.S.

Our citizens need assurance that our schools are run efficiently. According to the latest available data from the Washington Area Boards of Education, our county schools have the lowest per pupil expenditure of the nine reporting school systems. The high was Alexandria at $19,341 per student, and the low was Prince William County at $10,429. A recent study by the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute looked at whether school divisions in Virginia used public dollars cost-efficiently. It concluded that Prince William County Schools were among the state leaders in producing better student achievement results at a lower taxpayer cost.

In 2007, a school efficiency review was completed that will eventually evaluate all school districts in the Commonwealth. This program's goal is to identify cost savings in non-instructional areas to ensure that maximum funds are redirected towards classroom activities. Our Superintendent volunteered our district for this State-sponsored, external efficiency review. Our staff was given high marks for utilizing best practices in its efficient management and administration of a school district that employs more than 10,000 people and serves more than 70,000 students. Many of these recommendations have already been implemented. More than 86 cents of each dollar in the proposed budget goes directly to schools and instructional programs.

Almost 78 percent of the proposed budget is for compensation-related expenditures. Staff compensation in Prince William County is the lowest in Northern Virginia. The proposed budget this year includes a pay increase for staff and teachers that will enable them to at least keep up with the region, but it still does not permit us to achieve parity. Everyone agrees it is essential for staff pay to be regionally competitive to attract and retain a quality staff and to prevent current staff from migrating to surrounding jurisdictions.

Growth is our biggest challenge. Based upon a building space audit initiated by our Superintendent, existing space has been fully utilized and no new trailers have been purchased since his arrival more than two years ago. Our 10-year Capital Improvement Plan will adequately build new facilities and renovate or expand existing facilities. This is critical in a county where growth was nearly 2000 students this year and another 2000 expected next year. Public schools cannot turn these children away. Teachers, textbooks, and classrooms must be provided for all. At roughly $10,000 per student, such growth requires an additional $20 million per year just to maintain the status quo.

Our goal is to have world-class schools. I hope we agree that our schools are the best public investment we can make in our children’s futures. It is essential for the Board of County Supervisors to ensure that education receives the level of funding that our children deserve.
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