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Putting Hanover County’s School Budget Decrease in Perspective

The persistent whiners in Hanover County are at it again. And it’s time that the rest of the citizens have a good look at exactly what is going on.

You would think that America was in the middle of a financial boom listening to the gnashing of teeth from those who believe that schools should never face any type of budget cuts and the School Budget should be unlimited.

Hanover has some really great schools. Among the best in the country.

And that is something we want to keep.

But we have reached the point of diminishing returns in what we pay for schools. More money does not necessarily make schools better. And Hanover has a lot of unnecessary spending in the school budget.

And the majority of this wast is not in the classroom, it is in the Administration.

When you look at the background of the Administrators, from County Admin jobs down to Principals and assistants, the vast majority are former teachers. Most reached the top of the pay scale teaching and moved to administrative positions for one reason: more money. And as life long teachers, their focus and loyalty is to their fellow teachers and not the children or the taxpayers.

These teachers turned administrators may have taken some business classes, but the practice of hiring administrators “from within” turns good teachers (most of the time) into make-shift administrators. And worse, they come in demanding top tier salaries and have absolutely no experience with the business end of running schools efficiently. And their focus is on hiring more and more teachers with the false “smaller classes” logic even though the liberal “think tank” Brookings Institute has found that smaller class sizes are only a marginal improvement and the size reductions they looked at were class sizes of 22 vs class sizes of 15. Over a 4 year period, the smaller class size added the equivalent of 3 months of additional instruction. And the increase in cost was significant.

The same study concluded that a class increase of 1 student could save $12 billion a year nation wide. And if the worst teachers were let go, the savings may be more significant and actually improve the quality of education.

As you can imagine, there are few actually good studies on classroom size. Most of these would be ordered and approved by administrators who are only interested in adding more teachers.

Hanover County also has a problem of putting personal compassion ahead of sound economic practices.

While that is admirable, the cost to taxpayers is massive. With declining real estate values, Hanover is in a crunch. And while the county loses a few dollars in tax revenue with the decline in real estate value, the taxpayer is losing thousands or tens of thousands of dollars of their life savings and personal wealth. Tax increases will only add insult to injury. Tapped out taxpayers simply cannot shell out more and more money. Unemployment in Hanover is historically high.

A few examples of the compassion over sound fiscal decisions:

Rather than layoffs, it has been the practice of Hanover County to use attrition and reassignment to reduce the workforce. In the private sector, fiscal solvency dictates that the most effective and expedient solution be used. And this is usually layoffs and salary reductions. And moves to part time instead of full time.

I have been unable to get an exact number and cost and may turn to some Freedom of Information requests to answer the question of health care benefits for part time employees. In the public sector, this is not the case. Why should taxpayers foot the bill for benefits for part timers? There is even one case a reader brought to my attention of a long time school board member being reappointed to that part time job until she was old enough for Medicare. That is truly compassionate, but that reported $15,000 per year in health insurance could be spent elsewhere. The millions of unemployed and uninsured Americans let go from the private sector did not have such a generous boss.

And we have members of the Board of Supervisors that have been double (triple?) dipping into county funds for jobs like school crossing guard.

And did you know the county employees get credits if they do not need health insurance? That was cut from a $400 credit to a $100 credit. Where I work if you don’t want health insurance, they don’t deduct anything. A credit for a benefit not wanted or needed? Not in the private sector. At least they cut it!

There are more examples – but they will be the subject of an investigative article in the not too distant future.

So How Bad are the School Cuts in Hanover?

The “massive” cuts that the “raise taxes to pay for schools” crowd is all wee-weed up about is 0.5%.

One half of one percent!

You would think the life of their first born was in jeopardy the way some people are carrying on about this.

And student enrollment is declining and expected to continue the downward trend for years to come!

The school budget includes a whopping increase for one item: books. They increased the schoolbook budget by 26.5%. I would say the priorities are pretty good here.

So what went down?

Food Services Budget saw a 0.04% decrease. What’s that, one less spoon per school?

There is nearly $2 million for new computers, a million each for facilities improvements and safety improvements. And half a million for School Buses.

And the budget has a lot of expenses we should eliminate. Or seriously question their need.

According to the 2013 proposed budget page (60 of 250) we will spend:

  • $82,295 on Adult Education (isn’t it all about the children?)
  • $13,498 for After School Integration Initiative
  • $177,268 for a Drug Free Schools program. While everyone supports drug free schools, what the hell is this money actually doing?
  • $1.3 Million for Elementary Counseling services. In elementary schools?
  • $11.6 Million for Special Education and another $55K for “extended school year” special ed. Not that we shouldn’t educate special needs children, but how many of these are drug induced special needs kids with “legal” drugs oozing from their bodies.
  • $2,500 for “Emerging Leaders” program.
  • $1 million on Head Start.
  • $23,576 Individual Student Alternative Education Plan
  • $0 on something called “Learn and Serve” a $2,400 “cut”.
  • $153,098 for Medicaid Reimbursement? What is this?
  • $14,000 for a Mentor Teacher program
  • $700,000 Miscellaneous Grants that are not even listed!
  • $162,500 National Board Incentive – State
  • $150,610 Perkins Grant
  • $500,000 Reimbursement Accounts? Is this a half million slush fund?
  • $83,075 Special Education Jail Program? Really?
  • $20,000 for something called innovative Programs?

All of the above is on one single page of the 250 page budget document. And they are only the expenditures I would question.

Grab a copy of the budget and ask anyone who is demanding tax increases to pay for schools to justify this monstrosity. Here is the link to the 250 page budget.

I am sure most of these small items were added bit by bit over time. And once these are implemented, as Ronald Reagan said, they are then nearest thing to eternal life on this earth.

We are overspending on schools by millions of dollars.

But for those who desire to pay more for Innovative Programs or add to the slush reimbursement funds, here are a couple of ideas.

You could adopt one of these “Grant” programs and pay for Adult Education or Jail Special needs Education from your own funds.

Or better yet, just send in a generous donation to the county. County Treasurer Scott Harris even produced this “how to” guide requested by a Hanover Taxpayer:

Thanks for your email. I’ve researched the issue of making a gift or donation to the County. The County has authority to accept donations including cash and personal property. There is no provision for voluntary taxes as the State Code is pretty specific that there must an assessment to authorize a tax levy and payment. I know it’s probably a matter of semantics but the payment would legally be a gift or donation. Each individual should consult with their tax advisor relating to income tax implications…but in general, donations to the county would be deductible as are other charitable donations. Acceptance of gifts with restrictions would be a matter for consideration by the county administrator or board.   As to where the donations would be sent, I’d have to ask the County finance staff to determine that and how donations could be facilitated.  Once a process was in place checks could be made payable to ‘hanover county’ or to the treasurer.

 

For your information I’ve copied the finance department’s policy for accepting donations.

 

Finance Department Policies….

2-4 Donation Acceptance

A. Personal property, monetary and in kind donations:

(i) The department head may authorize acceptance of these donations with an estimated value below $5,000.

 

(ii) The County Administrator may authorize acceptance of these donations with an estimated value between $5,000 and $50,000.

 

B. Board of Supervisor’s authorization is required for acceptance of these donations with an estimated value greater than $50,000.

 

I hope I’ve answered your questions.

Scott

 

 

T. Scott Harris

Hanover County Commissioner of the Revenue

P. O. Box 129

Hanover, VA 23069

 

phone: (804) 365-6132 ; fax : (804) 365-6101

When we hire real administrators instead of “round peg in square hole” teachers looking for more money and an easier career, stuff like this school budget will stop happening.

Until then, the citizens of Hanover have to draw a line. Perhaps a few citizens to oversee the School Budget process and question and vet each and every line item in the School Budget will be helpful.


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.

4 Responses to “Putting Hanover County’s School Budget Decrease in Perspective”

  1. Excellent Article, Tom. Well done!
    I grew up in New York State and most class sizes I was in were between 35 and 40 students. The ones that were interested in learning got pretty damn good educations.

    Kids that were having difficulties or falling behind got plenty voluntary tutoring from the bright students, who in turn earned protection on the playground. Free Enterprise at work…..

    At last month’s Town Hall Meeting at Pamunkey Library, probably three quarters of attendees were teachers claiming that their pay ($52,003 per year) was not enough, and…they were thinking of teaching in Henrico where teachers are Paid Properly.

    Henrico pays $52,003 per year. So does Virginia Beach, and a whole lot of other school systems.

    These clowns have a 9 month work year, and an 8 or 9 A.M to 4 P.M. (minus lunch)workday and are complaining. My daughter taught in Hanover Schools and always stayed to at least 6 P.M. and later, helping all levels of students in Math, and when needed, other subjects. She loved the kids.

  2. Abolish Public Education

    I keep hearing people wondering out loud how so many of the voting population could be so stupid as to completely ignore what is going on around them.

    How could so many not care the slightest bit as they find themselves in the middle of a great civilization that is crumbling all about them?

    They have absolutely no idea of what always follows: Conquest.
    There is no preparation for the coming breakdown of Law and Order, and shortages of all kinds.

    How can this be?

    Simple, Public Education. There is no competition, not enough teaching the basic building blocks, and utterly misplaced priorities. The unnecessary Federal Department of Education has been taken over for some time by Appointed Officials that are bent on Indoctrinating value systems, ethics, and thought processes that are not compatible with a Free and Competitive way of life.

    Personal responsibility and high expectations have lost their importance. The “Education System” has changed the priority to group-thinking, consensus behavior, and blind obedience.

    Who decided that schools should Force the children what to eat? The Department of Education.
    This nonsense must stop.

    Give each State the Right to outlaw all Public Education. Let the Private Sector and Competition undo this slide into oblivion. Give tax-credits to families with students to fund the Private Schools. Parents will have a say about the goings-on, and sanity and excellence will once again return quickly.

    Abolish the Department of Education and Imprison the high level Administrators for theft of intellectual property. Sell off Department Real Estate & Assets.

  3. Lillie says:

    While I agree that there are some areas that could be looked at when it comes to cuts in the budget, I find your assessment of the special ed expenditures offensive. You ask how many of these kids are “drug induced special needs kids with ‘legal’ drugs oozing from their bodies.” Let me explain something to you sir. I am a parent of 4 children, one of whom is a special needs child who attends ESY in Hanover County. Understanding that not all children in the program are like mine, allow me to tell you just why ESY is essential.

    My son is Autistic, or “on the spectrum” for those who prefer the PC term; and moderately so. He is non-verbal, and he requires an iPad to communicate EVERYTHING going on with him (when he’s hungry, when he’s sick, etc). Ever heard the phrase “No two autistic kids are alike?” It’s true; my son is not like his autistic peers. He is non-verbal, he is slightly OCD, and he requires routine. When he doesn’t have routine, he goes into a meltdown. A meltdown ranges from simply stomping to a full blown laying in the floor, screaming, flailing fit. In case you were wondering, yes, he does take medication to control his meltdowns, but he is NOT “oozing” legal drugs.

    My son attends Spec Ed in Hanover Co b/c my husband and I can’t afford a specialized school. We spent almost a month fighting w/ the insurance co just to get them to pay for his iPad b/c they deemed it “an entertainment device,” despite being required by his IEP team. It took me laying out the financial cost of the iPad versus the cost of materials to create books for the communication program he uses to the VP of the ins co just to get it and the app for it paid.

    It’s been proven that “normal” kids don’t retain all the info they learn in the 3 months they spend on summer break. Now, imagine all the basic elements that special needs kids learn that they lose in that same three months. Before my son did ESY, it took his teachers the first 9 weeks of school just to get him into the routine. That’s a lot of catch up when you are trying to teach a child on an IEP something as simple as counting to 10.

    The ESY program is there for children like my son who need the extra time in school to keep them in a routine. Specifically, my son made leaps and bounds in his education after beginning the program. So my question to you is this: If a program is benefitting students, why are you going to question the background of the child? Since when does a child’s treatment determine whether or not they should participate in a program that would benefit them? I don’t see kids who take Ritalin or other meds who are deemed “normal” not be included in summer school. We don’t hear calls for the summer school program to be defunded based on certain criteria.

    One more thing, the Head Start program is for those same children who end up being diagnosed later w/ developmental disabilities. That program is an intensive program to begin getting these kids started so they aren’t so far behind when they start school. It’s been said you can’t know how someone lives until you walk a mile in their mocassins; keep that phrase in mind when you start deciding just who should get money for certain programs. You would be surprised what you would learn.

    • Tom White says:

      Lillie – The vast majority of “special needs” kids are not really kids with special needs. They are children that are more energetic than others with shorter attention spans especially when it comes to dry, mundane verbal learning. They are often “picture” learners and not very good at absorbing things from books. Instead of learning how to teach these kids, they want to put them on drugs and shut them up rather than change how they teach. Some teachers get it. some just don’t care. I had one of each. A brilliant kid that could absorb information however it was presented and another that responded well to creative, fun teaching. They gave her awards and they gave him drugs. When his problems worsened, I stopped the drugs, his problems went away and he struggled, but with our help – and little help or interest from teachers – managed to pass.

      A few of the teachers he had managed to figure out how to teach him. Our kids grow up with fast paced colorful TV shows and games. My son will learn if you use the same methods to teach him things that they use to make the games something he can sit and do for hours.

      He didn’t need drugs. He simply needed teachers that understood how he learns.

      We resisted the drugs and the school tried to bully us. I bullied them right back. And I am bigger than most of them. I am not easily intimidated.

      But when our doctor asked if we would withhold insulin if he were diabetic, that made us feel bad. And the downward spiral my son went through on the drugs eventually convinced me that the doctor was a complete idiot. I pulled the plug on the drugs when they wanted him to see a shrink for the angry outbursts. And as soon as the drugs were out of his system, the easy going sweet kid returned.

      And there are millions and millions of kids that went through the same exact thing and continue to do so because our society has become one where it is easier to drug the child into conformity than actually work harder to teach them.

      Not every kid is the same.

      And I think that you did not read the sentence as I intended, apparently taking offense at my words.

      “Not that we shouldn’t educate special needs children, but how many of these are drug induced special needs kids with “legal” drugs oozing from their bodies.”

      Your child is obviously one that has truly special needs. And one that we need to educate and work with differently. I am very familiar with autistic children and have seen first hand the differences. No two are alike. I agree.

      Your son’s condition was obviously not induced by drugs and removing the drugs will not make him verbal or allow him to be a mainstream kid. He was not one that was simply bored to tears and became disruptive, causing an uncaring system to simply medicate them into the little box they want to teach from.

      And how much better off would your child be if we managed to take those in the same class with him off of the drugs used to control them and actually put them in classes with teachers who can teach the easily bored ones? And believe me, those teachers exist. I have seen them.

      And the special education programs could then turn to actually helping children like your son instead of spending most of the day passing out drugs and babysitting the sedated children they are too lazy to teach.

      And the BILLIONS of dollars that the drug companies are making on doping up our kids is the real tell. Doctors push them to line their pockets, the drug companies do the same and schools love them because they don’t have to work as hard to teach. They become no better than teaching robots. And the ones who actually care and know how to reach easily bored kids are soon whipped into shape by the system.

      We waste far too much money on “special” kids that are not “special”, they are just harder to teach. And that takes time and attention away from the kids like your son that truly need the help.

      Believe me Lillie. I am on your side on this. The kids are our most important asset. ALL of them.

      And I also know that your child is a special treasure in your life. The small accomplishments that would mean little to those that don’t know him are exciting steps. Most times, only those closest to these kids understand that their difference is actually a gift if you know where to look. They can surprise and delight you, break your heart, and then make you laugh out loud often in the same minute.

      Autism is not well understood but kids like these are not “defective” of broken. Often they are more special than most will ever know.

      I will keep you and your son in my prayers!

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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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