Letters to the Editor: Week of Feb. 14, 2013
Misinformation doesn’t help
OK, it’s time for the “average Joes and Janes” to take a stand and be heard. There seems to be an overabundance of misinformation from a small, unhappy group about our wonderful Hanover Schools and someone needs to speak up and tell the truth. Several of the local newspapers featured thoughts from this small group that I’ve heard are flooding our local representatives with emails loaded with erroneous information provided by contributor, Ragan Philips, among others.
Mr. Philips stated that there’s been a 10-year significant decline in county funding to the schools. This is just not true. The fact is, that according to the Hanover County finance department which is easily available to all citizens on the county website, that for the past 10 years the transfer of funds from the county to the schools has averaged 50.7 percent. Think about that, for every dollar you contribute in taxes, on average, over half of it is returned to the schools. There is no major decline using the figures Mr. Philips reported. He seems to know a lot that just isn’t so.
I recognize that old saying about figures and liars, and somewhere there may be a kernel of truth, but the intent is to use scare tactics on Hanover’s parents, teachers, students, homeowners, and taxpayers that something’s terribly wrong. This is not supported by factual statistics from the Virginia Department of Education or county records that I checked.
So, what’s the real motive of this small group that thinks only “they” have the answers? I cannot understand this divisive approach. Creating discontent does not help us work together to meet the needs of our students.
Remember the glory days of flush coffers? Dr. Roberson was proud of our ability to do more with less. This has been our guiding principle in education funding and has served us well as we have extraordinary achievement. This philosophy of doing more with less has prepared Hanover for dealing with this unusually long downturn in the economy that does not seem to be getting better in any way.
It seems to me that any concerns about operations need to be reviewed as a management question and not a question of funding. Just throwing money at a problem, as we all know from our everyday lives, and adding more staff in a declining student population in Hanover is not a prudent way to solve problems of any kind.
Davis outlined proffers well
I learned a lot about cash proffers the other day. I went to a town hall meeting held by Sean Davis. He gave a presentation on cash proffers that included a history and reasoning behind the implementation. He didn’t shy away from any subject or issue. I found it very interesting that many people were not aware of the actualities of this program. Sean also explained to everyone why he did not support an increased vehicle tax and then explained in detail the creation of a reserve capital improvement fund to address the needs that proffers cannot address. This makes perfect sense.
After I looked at the whole picture, I had to ask myself “where have some of these people been getting their information?” The proffer report used growth projections that in no way reflected actual numbers. Sean encouraged everyone to research the information he provided. I also note that there were almost 175 people in attendance. This sends a clear message that people can be heard and that someone wants to hear what we are saying. The last thing I want to say is this, Sean really seems to care about all of the people of Hanover. He showed a genuine, caring, and compassionate concern for everyone; our children, the teachers, county employees, and all the people who may not have been able to attend his meeting.
Support education now
In recent articles and letters, I hear from people that Hanover is not only succeeding in educating our youth, it is surpassing expectations while being underfunded. How is it underfunded? Teachers have not had raises since 2007: add inflation each year and tax hikes, teachers bring home less in 2013 than they did in 2007.
People tell me that the school is succeeding. They are correct, just look at the school data on the Virginia Department of Education’s website. So, what should teachers do, if they want to make the money they deserve? Do the opposite.
The Hanover Board of Supervisors seems to believe that since the students are performing well, there is no need to add money to education, no need to give pay raises to teachers, no need to keep all of the teachers that are in the county. Thus, it seems logical (given the supervisors’ perspective) that if we want to raise the funds available for schools, that schools should perform below standard.
I do not want to wait until our schools are suffering beyond help. Support education now: Take care of the students and the teachers.
Friends of Hanover Schools here to stay
The Friends of Hanover Schools organization is made up of parents, teachers and citizens whose collective experience in our public schools numbers in the hundreds of years. We want our Board of Supervisors to recognize the school funding issues with input from the School Board. In order to ensure that this happens, we are taking our personal time away from our families to fight for the future of our schools.
To those who say our website presents misleading information, please recognize that all of our facts are documented. We encourage everyone to conduct their own research and draw their own conclusions. The facts are clear: our schools are underfunded.
For those who say we are a small group, we would point out that in less than one month, our blog has attracted over 500 followers and over 27,000 website hits. We continue to gain momentum because we are open to all stakeholders, not just teachers. For those who think we go away after this budget cycle, think again. We aren’t going anywhere.
We have never stated on our website that our schools are underperforming. We do feel that the tradition of outstanding achievement that our school division has attained is at risk if underfunding continues. Hanover County has excellent teachers, parents and students. Teachers all over the county are considering other employment options, and parents and students are being cheated by inadequate resources and technology. It will not take long for the cracks in the dam to burst wide open.
We would also like for the community to note three more things:
1) We have watched the budget be slashed for the past four years and said not one word. In this fifth consecutive year of cuts, our school division’s budget has fallen below the level that we are willing to accept for our community.
2) We are not asking for teacher pay to be increased. We are asking for resources and time to be spent helping our students.
3) Taxpayers should recognize that the best teachers have heavily-decorated resumes, are desirable assets and could earn higher wages. We want our students to continue to be taught by the best.
Finally, we hope that the conversations surrounding the future of our schools continue.
Ignore ‘raise no tax’ talk
We are writing you as Ashland residents and concerned parents of two Hanover public school students. We have attended public sessions of the Board of Supervisors meetings, School Board meetings and most recently the Public Forum held at the Ashland Firehouse Theater on Feb. 7.
We applaud the formation of the Friends of Hanover Schools and the valiant efforts of our teachers at mobilizing and calling out the crises we have created in our county education system. Kudos to our Superintendent, Dr. Jamelle Wilson, for doing her best with an impossible situation. Thank you both, Bucky Stanley and Angela Kelly-Wiecek, for attending the public forum and taking an active interest in trying to work towards finding a solution to this crises. I am disheartened that our district supervisor and none of the school board representatives attended.
It is no secret that we are in crisis mode and dangerously close to destroying the stellar reputation of Hanover schools – the very reason why scores of families like ours have moved to Hanover in the first place. If the county continues on this path of winnowing of school funding they will see an exodus of families (including this family) along with their businesses and tax revenues.
We urge the Board to take up the issue of raising real estate taxes back to at least the pre-2006 level. Our family is willing to pay the additional taxes; we view it as an investment not only into our children’s (all children’s) future, but into the future of Hanover County, our home. If the schools’ reputation decline, so will the value of everyone’s real estate. If the county cuts important services like law enforcement, the reputation of the county will suffer and our real estate values will go down. Do we need to continue?
The only feasible way to rectify the situation is raising real estate taxes. Waiting for additional revenues that may or may not come from businesses that may or may not invest in the county is not fiscally prudent policy.
Yes, there are people who think nothing of asking teachers and other county employees to work more for less, to tighten their belts, to take care of our children and safety with less personnel and less pay. Oddly enough those people are not willing to make only the tiniest sacrifice for the better of the community by paying their fair share. Instead they show their utter lack of respect for those people among us who provide services for us and for our benefit. Thus, we urge you to ignore the “raise no tax” crowd and to ensure that our county remains what it is: our home.
Christiane and Max Riederer