To quote the great Dean Tistadt on the Capital Improvement Program: “If we continue business as usual, we will fail.”
This year, once again we are presented with the opportunity – and the duty -- to say to our funding authority that now is the time to act. It is time for the Board of Supervisors to have the political courage to stand up for the driving force behind our local economy: our great (if crumbling) schools.
FCPS policy states that a 25-year renovation cycle ensures optimal learning environments for students, staff and thousands of community users. Our staff analysis has concluded that $205M per year -- an additional $50M over current funding levels -- is needed based on our 25-year renovation goal. The motion before us requests only an additional $25M -- not the entire $50M we need – and is a fiscally restrained first major step.
There is no greater crisis facing our school system than our facilities. I want to take us on a brief historical journey. In the 1950s and '60s, our school system’s population increased by 800 percent, going from 17,000 students to 133,000 students. In one decade alone, the 1960s, we built 70 new schools thanks to the foresight of our forbearers on the School Board and Board of Supervisors. Those leaders had the political courage to begin issuing bonds for construction, and they set us on the course for establishing the successful system we have today.
However, since those days, our population has grown, become more educated and become more diverse. Our community, now more than ever, supports and relies on our education system. Our School Board still understands the dire need to renovate our facilities. But what has happened to our county's leadership in those intervening decades?
We were elected as School Board members to advocate for the school system, not to tell the Board of Supervisors what they want to hear. Yes, we need to work together with our Supervisors, but if they do not hear us on this, our most critical issue, affecting every single one of our employees, every single student, and every single parent, then when are they ever going to listen?
Our community should take this as a call to action. If your children are sitting in trailers, call your Supervisor. If your children don’t have adequate access to restrooms, call your Supervisor. And if your students have to sit on the floor to eat lunch because they can’t fit in the cafeteria, call your Supervisor. Tell them to approve this $25 million increase in bond funding for our school system.
The time for political courage from our Supervisors is now.