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Franklin County supervisors should have learned by now the harm they are causing.
Monday, May 6, 2013
Members of the Franklin County School Board are faced with choices, one as bad as the next, as they attempt to squeeze out $1.2 million in spending: Deny bright students the prestige of attending the Governor’s School? Lay off resource teachers and social workers who help struggling students? Bench middle school athletes? Freeze teachers’ salaries for the fifth year and turn back state money meant to boost their pay?
The only choice Franklin County supervisors have denied them: Do no harm.
The school board met last week, and members seemed to be in agreement that they need to honor their promise to teachers to grant them raises. This is the first raise since the 2008-09 school year and before the Great Recession’s impact eviscerated schools’ budgets, the last raise granted at a time the county had hoped to rise above its 108th ranking of average teacher salaries among 132 school divisions in Virginia.
Without raises, Franklin County’s best teachers may bolt, a price too dear to contemplate for a school system struggling mightily to keep student achievement high while financial support plummets.
To be fair, it isn’t only Franklin County supervisors who are failing to adequately fund the schools. Much of the problem stems from cascading state cuts. Which is when local governments must step up; after all, it is their children whose education will suffer.
Franklin County supervisors refused last month to raise taxes by an average of $20 a year for homeowners, an amount that would recoup tax revenue lost when property values fell. Now, school board members must make cuts that they anticipate could touch every child in every classroom. The hurt will be spread broadly, but it won’t be spread thinly.
Students and their parents might then look enviously at the teachers’ raises. It would be a shame if their wrath at program cuts is directed at the men and women still dedicated to quality education.
Surely, it isn’t too late for supervisors to examine their own budget and see if they can lessen the pain they heaped upon the schools.
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