Education

“I am very proud and humbled to receive the endorsement of Albemarle Political Action for Children and Education (APACE), representing the Albemarle Education Association. I have been a dependable vote for school funding, and I will continue to be a strong supporter of our schools. All of our children attended Albemarle County Public Schools, and one is now an educator in the NYC public schools.

“Our greatest assets are our children. They are our future and the environmental and economic health of our community depends on a good public education system. We are a community that highly values education, as demonstrated by the overwhelmingly positive vote last year on the school bond referendum. Let’s do what we do best and focus economic development strategies on workforce development and education. If we want good quality jobs, we need a well-educated work force to attract and retain companies that pay good wages.

“Please help me continue to advocate for quality education. I ask for your vote on Nov. 7. Thank you.” — Liz


Albemarle Political Action Committee for Education Board of Supervisors Candidate Questionnaire

1. What role do you see public schools playing in making our community a desirable place to live?
In many ways, our public education system is the foundation of our community’s quality of life. For families with children, the decision of where to live is often governed by the quality of nearby schools and the educational opportunities they provide. By providing quality public schools, we make our community more appealing to families or individuals who are considering where to start their family. This guarantees our community’s vitality, which in turn provides more economic, social, and cultural opportunities.
In the long term, the public education that we provide to the youth of our community will directly affect us economically and socially. Children who receive a quality education are more likely to attain a college degree, which in turn makes them more likely to attain financial security. When members of the community are financially stable, this allows them to spend money within the community and contribute to the economic health of the community both by purchasing goods locally and by creating new businesses throughout the community. In addition, a well-educated person is more likely to adopt sustainable environmental practices, making the community a healthier place to live.
2. Do you support needs-based budgeting for the schools? Would you support local funding for programs that have reduced support from the state – such as art, music, world language, and reading intervention?
Yes, I support needs-based budgeting for our schools. Education is one of the most valuable commodities that we can provide the next generation, which means that we must put in the necessary funding to make sure all our children have access to a quality public education. If we do not provide schools with the funds that they need, there are two consequences: students do not have access to the resources that will help them develop their academic success, and schools cannot afford to hire or keep the teachers that are best able to create a strong learning environment for our communities’ children.
Yes, I support local funding for enrichment programs in our schools. I would argue that these programs are an integral part of a public education, and allow our students to grow socially and emotionally. Involvement in art classes, band, theater, language class, and other extra-curricular subjects gives our students an opportunity to build their passions. Additionally, they are not only beneficial to children; these same programs meant to enrich our children are also opportunities for people to attend theatrical or musical performances within their community at an affordable price.
3. How would you partner with the School Board to develop and fund a budget that provides adequate resources for the educational needs of the community and addresses taxpayers’ concerns about revenue sources?
The BOS and the school board meet regularly to understand each other’s needs. Increased communication between the boards is important. It is also important for the boards to direct their respective executives to work together in the budget process. Strong boards are necessary to hold executives accountable. We also need our Planning Commission to work with the School Board to understand student population growth and schools’ capacity. This will help communicate capital needs to the Board of Supervisors and give adequate time to plan responsibly. As of this past year, the Planning Commission and School Board are holding joint meetings.
With respect partnering with the School Board to addressing taxpayers concerns about revenue sources, it is again about communication (early and often) with each other and with the public. I believe the School Board needs to find ways to better involve the many taxpayers without school age children. The BOS can help with that. .We can and do also work together on our legislative agenda package to request increased state funding for schools.
4. How should the Board of Supervisors and the school board work together to address compensation, teacher shortages and staff retention? Do you think school staff are compensated fairly and adequately?
County government and the ACPS utilize the same HR department, therefore we already have a fair bit of collaboration. We also have a policy that general government and school employees other than teachers receive the same salary and wage increases and receive the same benefit package. Teachers in Virginia are of course treated a bit differently by the state with respect to salary increases.
Our target salary is the bottom of the top quartile for our market area. In the past we have used a target market that I do not believe accurately reflects community expectations and for 3 years now I have advocated adopting a target market based on school quality and rankings.
I do not believe teachers in Albemarle County are adequately compensated. Salaries do not adequately account for the County’s high cost of living. As for teacher shortages and retention, I believe that solutions in addition to pay increases are needed. Work load needs to be addressed. Too many young teachers are getting burned out after just a few years of teaching because their schedule does not afford them free time for family and friends. My own daughter is a calculus teacher in NY City. She is in her 5th year and will probably not continue for a 6th year. She lacks free time and feels her QOL is poor. She is now one of the most senior teachers at her school because others have burned out after 3 years.
5. What is the fiscal responsibility of the Board of Supervisors for the success of Albemarle County Schools? How would you increase revenue sources while maintaining a commitment to Albemarle’s core values around growth and development?
The Board of Supervisors is financially responsible for school funding. Money does not guarantee success but a lack of money can guarantee failure. I support the current policy of 60% of new revenues going to the schools and school funding that meets County residents’ expectations for school excellence. Because in 2014 and 2015 the majority of the Board of Supervisors was unwilling to support tax increases to fund needed school expansions and modernization, I supported taking the question directly to the voters in the form of a bond referendum in 2016. The County Executive advised against it and requested that we wait until 2018. After gaining assurance from bond counsel and staff that a bond referendum in 2016 would not damage our Triple-A bond rating, the board majority voted to put the question to the voters. The referendum passed overwhelmingly and we were able to borrow over 30 million dollars for the schools at an interest rate of 2.88%. I believe this was a reasonable and prudent decision. We are now implementing those capital improvements.
How would you increase revenue sources while maintaining a commitment to Albemarle core values around growth and development?
I support commercial and industrial redevelopment in our development area. When density is increased in the urban area, property tax revenue per acre is increased. This is the appropriate way to increase revenue without significantly increasing expenses and remain consistent with our values and growth management strategies. Albemarle County’s growth and development goals are designed to retain our rural areas for agriculture. Agriculture is a vital part of our economy. Therefore supporting family farms is a sustainable long term goal that will not only help our bottom line but help protect our air, water and agricultural soils for future generations and keep our children healthy and ready to learn. And it costs less to keep air and water clean than it does to clean up after pollution occurs.
6. Do you believe that it is the locality’s responsibility to make up shortfalls in state funding, including unfunded state and federal mandates regarding technology and ESSA?
Yes, I think it our responsibility to procure the funding necessary to meet educational mandates regarding technology and ESSA. If students are not exposed to technology and educated on how to use technology, we are setting them up for failure in higher education. We live in a society where technological literacy is increasingly important, and the ability to write a good paper is inextricably linked to the ability to use a word processor, format a paper electronically, and send a professional email with an attachment. Technological equipment may be pricey, but it is nothing compared to the price we will pay if our children graduate from high school technologically illiterate.
It is true that some students may have the opportunity to be educated about technology at home, but not all our children have the privilege of living in a house with a computer, an internet connection, or an adult who can provide technological education. If we fail to provide technological literacy skills to all students at school, then it is our most vulnerable and at-risk children that we are leaving uneducated.
Similarly, ESSA is necessary to make sure that those same vulnerable and at-risk children receive the support they need to succeed academically in school and as citizens within the community. If we do not fund ESSA, then we are not providing support to our students who need it most. Ideally education should be about equity rather than equality; the goal is not to provide every student with the same support, but to provide each student with the differentiated support that they need to reach the same educational goals. ESSA is that support for our at-risk, ESL, and economically disadvantaged students. If we do not take on the responsibility of funding ESSA then we are failing to provide a true education to all members of the community, which in turn perpetuates an educational gap that contributes to the necessity of programs like ESSA in the first place.
7. Do you support charter schools directed by for-profit companies? Should the state board of education grant charters or should local school boards do so? Do you support state efforts for tuition credits or vouchers for private schools?
I do not support charter schools directed by for-profit companies. There is an undeniable conflict that occurs when a school is torn between the goal of providing a quality education and the goal of making a profit. It is easy to see the contradiction between struggling to find local funding for arts, technology, and programs like ESSA while for-profit charter schools claim to provide a quality education, presumably with the same programs, that actually saves money. There is the additional caveat that though schools require money, they are not the same as a business; efficiency and thriftiness do not translate into learning. That depends much more on the quality of the teachers and the available resources, both of which are compromised when there is consideration about a bottom line.
I think that the local school boards should grant charters. According to the Virginia DOE, there are over 1,800 local schools in Virginia in 129 school divisions, all of which the state board of education presides over. While the state board can examine individual school divisions and make decisions based on statistics and reports, the local school boards are much more viscerally aware of the educational needs of their division’s communities and can make the best informed decision about the community’s’ educational needs.
I do not support state efforts for tuition credits or vouchers for private schools. Advocates of tuition voucher programs usually say they offer low-income students the choice of attending a private school that will supposedly give them a better education, and push underperforming schools to either improve or shut down as their students choose different schools. In reality, however, these programs are not financially feasible or effective. Often tuition credit programs offer a voucher that covers part of a private school tuition, but if the families receiving these vouchers are low-income then it is unrealistic to expect them to be able to pay the additional thousands of dollars necessary to pay full tuition at most private schools.
Additionally, if they are able to find a private school that they can afford with the tuition voucher, there is no guarantee that they will perform better. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education released a study earlier this year showing that students in Washington D.C. who attended private schools using tuition vouchers actually performed significantly lower on mathematics test scores than students who did not receive the tuition credit. Rather than push students towards private schools with tuition vouchers, that same funding can go toward improving our public schools.
8. What do you think should be the public input process during the budget cycle?
We need to continue to encourage input from the public and to bring more residents into the process. Currently the Board of Supervisors does a series of town halls in the county office buildings, different schools and on-line. Some of these have excellent participation while others draw almost no one. The BOS has tried different formats in different years to see what works best. One of my campaign promises in 2013 was to video stream all the BOS meetings to increase public awareness and ultimately more public participation. We began this in 2015 and have hired additional staff to help with public outreach. While video streaming takes place all year, we should advertise that this is available during the budget season.
I believe the school board should consider video streaming their meetings also. Since a majority of taxpayers do not have children in the schools, I encourage the school board to involve the wider community whenever they can so that the public can see the achievements and also the challenges of today’s educators. “It was good enough for me…” is a constant threat that both boards can try to counter. I’m always impressed with parent and teacher presentations during the budget hearings, but it’s a constant struggle to get public involvement earlier in the process — necessary for the general public to feel it was consulted.