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Hanover County’s School Budget – Growing Crisis and what is wrong with Mr. White’s Arguments!

Editor’s Note: The letter below is from a reader that takes exception and (apparently) offense at a recent post concerning the Hanover School Budget, which I publish unedited.

With all due respect to Ms. Fulk, when we have crossing guards making $41.25 per hour draining our school dollars unnecessarily – with a reported 4 dozen more making above the maximum their jobs are supposed to pay – these are not isolated incidents, but rather a systemic “playing” of the system.

And points like “the other counties have newer stuff” are straw-man arguments. I doubt the other counties pay $41.25 for crossing guards.

And I completely disagree that only someone with teaching credentials is qualified to make observations on school spending. I am both a taxpayer and have worked in Academics – I designed and built the Campus Backbone at the University of Richmond when I worked there in the 1990’s and published the details in the book “Campus Wide Information Systems” that same year. My part in the process included targeting and budgeting the areas that would be connected as well as the remainder of the project. I was involved in budget meeting and design meetings and planning for the Jepson School of Leadership Studies and many other major projects on the campus. And I managed to find considerable cost savings in in unnecessary expenditures in construction. So I am well qualified and experienced in this area.

A class size of 30 or even 35 was the average when I went through school in the 60’s and 70’s. Discipline is the key. On the part of the teacher and the students.

Hanover County has some of the best Public Schools in the State. But they do not stack up well to private schools and even home schooling. Privatizing schools and letting them be run by private corporations would do a lot to get rid of the waste. Do you think that a private school would pay $41.25 per hour for a crossing guard?

And I maintain that hiring people trained to teach as Administrators is a large part of the problem. Very few companies pull someone off the assembly line and make them CFO. Or even accountants. Teachers should teach, people trained in Administration should administrate. These jobs are rewards and the path up for teachers. That is not an efficient system. We deserve value for our tax dollars. Not cronyism.

Ms Fulk wrote: “I would also add, that working all day long with youth is concurrently rewarding and exhausting. Why do most people choose not to do it? Teachers need a break to rejuvenate. If you don’t understand this, you have no clues about youth. Also the fact that they have about 9 weeks off in summer is not enough time to get another legitimate job.”

Wow! Poor tired teachers! This is the mindset that is pervasive throughout the education elite circles. Talk to the Air Traffic Controller about stress. Talk to the guy out in 100 degree heat repairing the roads, or 10 below plowing snow.  Or the cashier at McDonald’s at lunchtime. Most of them would trade their jobs AND PAY for the classroom in a minute!

And let’s talk about the “slush fund” that the principals have to spend their “mad money” – wherever. That is a BAD idea.

Anyone that believes the schools in Hanover are suffering from a lack of money is either misinformed – or a teacher.

Below is the letter from Ms. Fulk:

 

In retort to Mr. Tom White’s blog titled “Putting Hanover County’s School Budget Decrease in Perspective”

I will try to stick to as much of the facts as possible as to not add to Mr. White’s burden of “whiners”. Full disclosure, I am not a teacher in Hanover County but I was certified to teach 5 years ago from the University of Richmond.

I first take issue with his comments about the bulk of administrators coming from the pool of teachers. So what???? Since he likes to use private industry examples, many companies promote from within. Why? because it’s good policy and many employees are motivated to learn, train and move up. Who better to serve as an administrator than a former teacher who has learned, trained and been chosen to move up? You note they want more money. Again- so what???? Why should they not earn more money? There is nothing wrong with that.

I take issue with the class size study and argument. Your numbers deal with 22 and 15. How about starting with 27-30 for size? Even though the average is reported around 23:1, the reality is 28 plus in most classes, especially middle school and high school in Hanover County. Many people don’t realize that the ratio is very skewed by self-contained classes and extremely challenged students that require one on one attention. If you do not realize this, you think the “average” class has around 22 kids. What’s bad about that? Well that is not reality. So reality of 28 plus comes with much increased classroom management challenges. Mr. White may not be aware of this, as it does not appear he has ever taught before.

I take issue with “thousands of dollars” in declining real estate values. According to a number of real estate agents, home prices in Mechanicsville have come back from the crisis and are close to on par with the 2006 peak. The tax rate was lowered several years ago and supporters of the schools pleaded to not have this rate reduction affect our schools. Guess what Mr. White it has significantly and negatively affected our schools. Ask recent student teachers who have seen how far behind in technology Hanover County is compared to bordering counties. Ask them how old and outdated our software is. Ask them how old and outdated our books are. How many subjects have missed their update for new books date by more than a year? Ask where they would like to teach school and why? While you are at it, ask some of the excellent teachers who left Atlee school this year why they left. Ask one why she went to The Steward School, or the other one who went to Benedictine? Ask all of the Atlee teachers how they like teaching another class for less money and with more students? Less money because the bulk of the one raise they got in oh so many years was majorly eaten up by paying into health benefits. (Not saying I disagree with this, just dishing out some facts here)

The point is, if we keep pushing hard enough and continue to cut, good people will leave, either education all together or for better school deals. So the people who are “whining” they don’t want their taxes raised, will just have to see their real house value decline as their school quality declines. Watch what happens if they cut IB programs from any of the Hanover HS’s. New families moving into the area will X Hanover County right off their list and only look at Henrico schools or Chesterfield because there went the reputation!!!!

I am tired of people who say “Teachers only work 9 months.” Mr. White did not say this but adding to points here, I would say that statement is inaccurate on its face. I would also add, that working all day long with youth is concurrently rewarding and exhausting. Why do most people choose not to do it? Teachers need a break to rejuvenate. If you don’t understand this, you have no clues about youth. Also the fact that they have about 9 weeks off in summer is not enough time to get another legitimate job. So, by working less than their private economy colleagues, they sacrifice the option of working those 9 weeks. If we want teachers with renewed sanity, we can’t concurrently pay them less because they get a longer summer break!!!

The “massive cuts” Mr. White uses sarcasm toward, are significant in real dollars and more importantly significant because we have been cutting for at least 4 years!!!! When I chose to move to Hanover County and Atlee in June of 2004, it was because of excellent schools and a reputation for “lean and mean” in their school budgeting. You can’t win recognition for “lean and mean” with great outcomes and then subsequently cut on that scenario and not expect quality to decline. You can’t have it both ways.

Going through the budget line by line is not a bad idea. Many of us want the federal government to do the same. I think Mr. White will find that many of the lines he is already criticizing, when explained in detail, are useful and necessary. They just reveal little detail in their “line item” format for lack of space.

Mr. White is way, way, way off base when he says, “We are overspending on schools by millions of dollars,” if he is speaking about Hanover County. Maybe he was speaking generically about New York or New Jersey where property taxes are $15,000 instead of $4000 for comparable size homes!!! Or Washington D.C. where the most dollars per child in education are spent and for some of the worst outcomes. He surely was not speaking about Hanover County, because he would be sorely misguided.

It is ironic that Mr. White is apparently financially successful as a veteran, insurance agency owner, IT manager and freelance writer. Curious as to why he begrudges teachers who go on for masters degrees in administration and then are promoted to administrator, but they are just “greedy” and “lazy”(my words, his insinuation) and just want an “easier career”(his words)?

As a concerned, involved parent who has two Atlee graduates, one 10th grader, and a masters degree, with an additional teaching certificate, I feel highly qualified to argue this issue. I question Mr. White’s qualifications to argue this issue.

So everyone should consider how much quality decline they are willing to endure before they decide “enough is enough” and decide to make choices that maintain our quality of teachers, supplies, technology and administrators.

If our children aren’t our most valuable “commodity” who or what is? Please ask the right questions and evaluate the honest picture.

Danette Fulk
Princeton University graduate
Army Veteran
University of Rochester graduate
University of Richmond graduate
Independent consultant

About Tom White

Tom is a US Navy Veteran, owns an Insurance Agency and is currently an IT Manager for a Virginia Distributor. He has been published in American Thinker, currently writes for the Richmond Examiner as well as Virginia Right! Blog.Tom lives in Hanover County, Va and is involved in politics at every level and is a Recovering Republican who has finally had enough of the War on Conservatives in progress with the Leadership of the GOP on a National Level.

One Response to “Hanover County’s School Budget – Growing Crisis and what is wrong with Mr. White’s Arguments!”

  1. Bob Shannon says:

    Perhaps Ms Fulk would do well by reading the “Staffing Surge” a report by the Heritage Foundation that documents spending and staffing explosions in public schools across the Nation from 1992-2012. Federal expenditures climed 143% the largest single increase of any federal spending during that period. School spending when you consider schools receive funding from all 3 levels of government has not been cut–it has exploded over that 20 year period

    The report clearly documents what occured during that period, all levels of staffing exploded, from administrators to teachers to teachers aides etc. It was absolutely typical of the mindset of an almost emotional blackmail that goes on in government at all levels. Any attempts to cut or restrain school spending is met with the same tired refrain ” but it’s for the children” It is absurd.

    The U.S. spends per student more than any other industrialized nation but 1, and just what are we getting for our money ?

    I don’t blame teachers or administrators alone for this, much of the problem has to do with family structure or the lack therof and the low priority that many parents place on learning, the disciplinary problems that often result from a dysfunctional home.

    That said the stress of teaching that Ms. Fulk implies is somehow the domain alone of school teachers….. most of us are getting tired of hearing that, at least most of us with out an agenda. Many professionals have stressful jobs and contend with daily rigors that drain anyones energy levels. Most of us get by with 2 weeks a year vacation and manage.

    The last point is the never ending “threat” to go somewhere else because Hanover isn’t paying enough or cutting too much. If you add the cost today of commuting from Hanover to anywhere else, the added strain of fighting more traffic in your daily commute i doubt their is any economic advantage to jumping ship.

    Public sector employees who still enjoy having most of their pension and health insurance costs born by others might want to weigh Ms. Fulk’s contentions about leaving a job a little more seriously than the cosmetic rational she employs. They will find they have a pretty good job, they are paid fairly (considering their very generous benefit package )
    Bob Shannon

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    Tom White Says:

    Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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