Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Barbara Skinner and Bill Stephenson
Skinner is the mother of a Montgomery County Public School student. Stephenson is emeritus dean of engineering at Virginia Tech and former PTA co-president of Blacksburg Middle School.
Once again, the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors is contemplating raising tax rates even though our property tax rate increased by 12 cents last year.
Board members feel they’re supporting education by allocating as much money as possible to our school system.
Everyone should know by now, however, that spending more doesn’t necessarily yield better results. If money were the issue, the U.S. would be near the top in performance among developed nations rather than languishing in the middle of the pack.
Our own National Assessment of Educational Progress scores, known as the Nation’s Report Card, show stagnant academic performance for decades.
Unfortunately, expenses have ballooned while achievement has floundered.
We believe that Montgomery County Public Schools could save millions of dollars and readily solve our budget “crisis” by increasing class sizes, decreasing administration and using a better but less costly inclusion model for special education students. We also believe that quality can be improved by halting wasteful, ineffective spending and instead targeting our money on what actually works to improve academic achievement.
For example, Roanoke County Public Schools outscore MCPS on Standards of Learning exams (especially in math) and also come much closer to state proficiency targets for special education students. However, The Roanoke Times reported on March 8 that Roanoke County schools saw a decrease in funding of $14 million since 2008.
Personnel costs consume 83 percent of the Roanoke County school operating budget. In contrast, MCPS personnel costs consume 88.5 percent of its budget. If we were to reduce our personnel costs to the 83 percent level, we could realize a savings of $5 million. If we were to reduce personnel costs to 80 percent, the national average, we could save almost $8 million.
A bloated administration not only eats up resources but can impede and interfere with educators on the front lines.
In addition to giving stretched taxpayers a needed break and finally budgeting for sufficient and regular maintenance, what could we do with some of this money we believe could be saved? We could offer higher beginning salaries to teachers to attract high-quality applicants, especially for math and science positions. We could offer merit pay to high-performing teachers and to those willing and able to accept leadership responsibilities. This is a current focus in education reform: hiring, elevating and rewarding quality teachers.
The board of supervisors will be voting on April 15 to determine upcoming tax rates. Let’s demand better and smarter budgeting rather than higher taxes. If the supervisors feel unable to insist on greater efficiency and better focus from the school board, then they should form a citizens advisory board to review school spending. You can encourage your board representative with these words from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, delivered during an address to the American Enterprise Institute in November 2010.
“My message is that this challenge [doing more with less] can, and should, be embraced as an opportunity to make dramatic improvements. I believe enormous opportunities for improving the productivity of our education system lie ahead if we are smart, innovative and courageous in rethinking the status quo.”
Weather JournalStorm track isn't very snowy for us