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Franklin County’s failure to adequately fund its public schools could jeopardize the education of every student enrolled at the governor’s school.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
When Franklin County supervisors refused to adequately fund their public schools, they set in motion a series of unfortunate decisions that now risk not only their own children’s education but that of the Roanoke Valley’s best and brightest students. Eventually, the supervisors’ poor decision could stymie economic growth that is so dependent on a workforce skilled in the sciences and technology.
Unless $1.5 million magically appears by Monday, the Franklin County School Board will be required to reduce its already lean budget by that amount. Though there is a list of options, one as appalling as the next, it is anticipated the board will opt to save $140,000 by pulling out of the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School. A drop in the $1.5 million budget deficit, yes, but the ripples it creates could spell the end for the governor’s school.
“I am gravely concerned that short-sighted decisions will cost us this shining example of regional cooperation. That would be a generational blunder,” said David Carson, chairman of the governor’s school board and of the Roanoke City School Board. Franklin County is one of seven localities sending its brightest mathematics and science students to the regional academy to study alongside scholars from Roanoke, Salem and Bedford, Botetourt, Craig and Roanoke counties.
“The governor’s school is an educational treasure. It provides instruction and hands-on experience that many high-performing students will not encounter until they reach graduate school,” Carson said. All of which would tumble if one pillar of support is knocked out.
“The governor’s school counts on our participation,” Franklin County Superintendent Mark Church said. Pulling out “creates a lot of problems for the governor’s school and our students.” However, Church said, “we have to meet basic instructional needs” — his budget-cutting orders from the board.
So the board will decide which child to save and which to sacrifice. As board member Thad Montgomery rationalized, “Governor’s school students are going to be successful, no matter what.” Montgomery’s cringe-inducing remark came within the pitiful context: If faced with the choice between providing resources for a second-grader struggling to read and sending the district’s best and brightest to the region’s premier science and math academy, well, the fittest will survive.
Survive? Yes. But thrive? In sacrificing the 34 Franklin County scholars on the altar of fiscal insanity, the school board will slam the door shut on their attendance at the region’s best public science and math academy, one that opens the admittance door to the nation’s best universities, which opens the door to exceptional career paths, which opens the doors to . . . well, they will be deprived of ever knowing the full consequences.
And in closing the door on their own students, Franklin County’s decision might lead to shuttering the governor’s school, which would lead to the region missing out on the science and tech expansion that is so vital to retaining and attracting employers.
While all others pursue the STEM fields, the Roanoke Valley would retreat — all for want of wisdom from one board of supervisors to do right by its children.
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