On the Albemarle County School Budget

I whipped my last letter together in about 10 minutes before I went to my daughter’s soccer practice, and after reviewing it, I made some errors.  Where ever I wrote BOS (Board of Supervisors), I meant the School Board.  The BOS appears to be listening to the will of the people which is why there is discussion of a rate cut.  I have no confidence in the school board, superintendent, or the downtown administration.  By the way, I’m more than willing to pay more for school if there is accountability.  There is no accountability here, just speculation and excuses with no data.

That being said, for the last few days we’ve been receiving these emails about supporting what I consider, ridiculous spending.  I wasn’t trying to start some deep discussion or controversy over the subject, I was just curious if there were other recipients that disagreed as I did.  Most times when there is discussion about school spending, it doesn’t get my attention.  This one did.  Doesn’t mean I’m wrong or right, just that I disagree.  And if you’re going to send political email to my house, and you’re welcome to, if I disagree, I’m going to let you know.

So my message was quickly written and I need to clarify a few things.  Recognizing that we have so many of our local teacher and administrators on this distribution list, I wanted to say that even though I think this spending is out of control and needs to be reigned in, I don’t think the problem is at the school level.  Living with my wife, I don’t think too much of No Child Left Behind, but I don’t believe it’s the budget buster that is being portrayed here.  I think the problem is all down town.  I think we need more information on what goes on down town, who works down town, and what they do.  It’s my opinion that this is where the waste is, but if anyone can get this information, please share it.  How many failing teacher and administrators have they created new positions for down town?  How much does the county spend on bringing in some specialist contractors to tell or teachers the new metho d they will be using to teach our kids?

I believe (and I admittedly don’t have the information because it’s not available) if we eliminated 50-70% of the people downtown, and allowed our teachers to teach, we would have smarter kids, a better environmental, and fiscally responsible education.  To have the increases that we are having, something is wrong, and it’s not happening at the school level.

The other thing that bothered me is the intentionally misleading data that we have seen in these emails  Then there’s the, I’m not sure what you would call it…..shakedown?  They always say if they don’t get the money they want, they will have to cut teachers.  It’s always the teachers that must go first.  In reality, they have plenty of fat to trim down town and other places, but instead they throw this emotional blackmail at the parents.

I looked at the data again.  It was a 63% increase in school budget from 2000 to 2007 with a 2% growth.  I’m not saying anyone is not informed on their decisions.  I just think that kind of increase is absurd, and NCLB and 2% growth doesn’t explain it.  All I’m saying is we need to stop giving this irresponsible school board and superintendent a rubber stamp to whatever they want.  I want a better explanation.  I think we should call them on it.

By the way, none of this gets me angry and as far as the growth goes, I have participated in that process too, speaking at the Old Trail Planning Commission meeting, working on the Crozet Park Board etc..

My apologies to the superb teachers, administrators (local) and employees if I offended you.  It was not my intention.  Nor was it my intention to enflame anyone.  I just wanted to see if anyone else was thinking the way I was.  And you’re right Patty, I don’t need to sign the petition.  I’ll just write directly to my supervisor.

ed note: The above is courtesy of Brian Campbell. This type of discussion is part of the reason that this blog was started. Please feel free to contribute to the conversation or submit stories candidly, not everything will be published, but please do contribute. Accountability and transparency qualify as “good things.” The more discussion and oversight by the citizens, the better.

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5 Replies to “On the Albemarle County School Budget”

  1. Hi Brian,

    I just wanted to ask a couple of questions about your comments above. First, where did you get the data on the increase in the budget versus the increase in the students? While I trust you overall – this just simply does not seem possible to me as every school I am familiar with in the county is near or above capacity and, from what I have been told, almost every one has trailers in some form or another. This may indicate that we have hit a point where we need a great deal more investment even just to take care of what students we have already and a lack of funding in the past rather than over funding now. I was interested in seeing these numbers for myself because the school my kids were at three years ago (Cale) has increased in the over 100 student range, while Crozet seems to have done the same.

    Second, while I am not as informed as I would like to be on the details of the budget, I would not be surprised if the very administrative personnel you don’t want are required by the “No Child Left Behind” legislation. In particular, one of the big requirements for NCLB is testing – grading and analysis of the results of all of these tests, as well as review of the procedures, production of the tests and oversight are at least part of what all those downtown folks are doing. While accountability is good, it can be taken to the extreme and cost more than the actual program itself. I know that it takes at least 8 weeks of a staff person at Crozet to administer the tests there. That does not count all of the other staff that helps in one way or another by proctoring exams etc. It would be really nice if there was a way to see the expense of the federal and state programs in the budget.

    Finally, in terms of administrators and counting “downtown” people, I wonder how they count assistant principals. My perception is that the assistant principal at Crozet solves many problems for individual teachers enabling them to do a better job teaching. I wonder if all the principals and assistant principals are considered administration.

    I hope to find out more answers about the details myself, but in the end I am for the school budget and not having across the board tax cuts as I don’t see it helping people who need it most.This kind of tax cut (or lack of increase) benefits most those who need it the least. I want the local government to provide more services and infrastructure. I don’t want my kids going to overcrowded schools, trying to walk and ride bikes on busy streets with no sidewalks, and I want programs for public transportation and affordable housing. I am for programs to remedy the tax situation for those on fixed incomes and for those that have owned their property for years (or have family property). But keeping the budget the same for the county when it is growing so fast, and faces increases in providing teachers and staff health care, cost of living increases, energy costs, etc. is no more responsible than ignoring the needs of those on a fixed income.

    I believe in keeping our elected officials accountable, but there is also at least one I trust – Brian Wheeler. I think this discussion is good and it has made me find out more about the school budget and how my money is being spent. However, my response after becoming more informed is that I do not want the tax rate reduced (or lets me really clear) – go ahead and increase my taxes to keep the school programs functioning and begin to build more savings in for infrastructure improvements and programs to eliminate taxes for those with fixed incomes.

    And, yes, thank you for your comments and all of your work in the community. I think that together we can keep these folks accountable without going over board. Maybe one of the good things that could come out of this is some way to see the budgets and what exactly is being funded – because I whole-heartedly agree that is hard data to find.


    Dee A. B. Weikle

  2. Thanks Jim,

    I have already read Brian’s website, and some of the county budget. I had not found the exact site you mention above so I will look at that in more detail – thanks. Brian’s website is at least part of why I believe we should continue support for the school budget in full.

    Don’t worry – I supported Brian in his first election and think it is one of the best decisions I have been able to make in a long time. I will continue to support him in the future.


  3. I agree with much of what Brian and others say, but I think that government operates in a different world than the rest of us. They start with how much they want and go from there.

    The rest of us start with how much we have, and budget from there. To “budget” as they do now is irresponsible use of our money, in my opinion. Not everything can be solved with more and more money.

    I believe that the data support the statement that enrollment has been flat – system-wide – but that enrollment is shifting within the County.

  4. Jim,

    I totally agree with what you said. I told my husband the fears they were instilling in the teachers of possibly losing their jobs and I thought was ridiculous especially since there was home assessment increases of about 20% and thats why they wanted to lower property taxes by what a couple of cents?! AND trust me there is ALOT of FAT to trim from downtown. How about all these guest speakers they hire to come from California to inspire new teachers? These speakers cost THOUSANDS of dollars. Why not trim there?

Something to say?