On October 16, Loudoun County Public Schools announced that it would be launching a Parent and Community Input Survey the following day. That next day, however, the school system announced the survey was being delayed “pending review by the Loudoun County School Board.”
This last-minute delay raised eyebrows among parents and other concerned citizens. Why, they wondered, was the School Board jumping in at the last minute to interfere with a community survey, a routine process the school system has used before to communicate with parents and others?
The answer, unsurprisingly, involves budgets and taxes.
This same survey, as conducted in 2011, included a question about whether parents and taxpayers would be willing to pay higher taxes and/or school fees to prevent school budget cuts. In 2011, almost 30 percent of respondents supported higher taxes or fees to offset any school budget cuts, while 80 percent said that higher taxes or fees should be used to offset at least some of the school budget cuts. Only 13 percent of respondents rejected the idea of any tax or fee increases to help fully fund the schools.
Now we find ourselves in 2012, with a new all-Republican Board of Supervisors proposing to balance the County budget exclusively through spending cuts to the schools. The Supervisors want to cut taxes while also underfunding the schools, even as the schools take on thousands of more students owing to the pro-growth, pro- developer actions of the last Republican Board. And the new Republican-dominated School Board has just killed a community survey which asks about taxes and school spending, a survey used before and which proved community willingness to pay higher taxes to save the schools budget.
The Board of Supervisors has made a pattern of reducing community input and transparency in their governing. It is a shame to see that the School Board has joined the Supervisors in wanting to hear less, not more, from their constituents, and in wanting to hide their actions. If the School Board wants to ignore the survey data – to rationalize it away -- that is their prerogative. But to interfere with a survey conducted by experienced professionals to avoid getting data they might not like? What are they afraid of? And if they are afraid of the truth – afraid of what the people of Loudoun really think – why are they our elected representatives?