Members of the Fairfax Education Association (FEA) held a press conference yesterday in which they spoke out against the extreme cuts to education that can be found in the proposed state budgets. Although they concentrated their remarks on the budget put forward by Gov. Bob McDonnell, the members who spoke said that all of the proposed budget had far too many cuts to education and that it was severely disappointed that officials were trying to balance the budget on the back of our children.
There were several topics that were touched upon and you can see in the video below, but a main focus was the music programs that are potentially going to be cut. Speaking on this topic was both a music teacher and a fine arts administrator who talked about how thousands of students could potentially lose out on an opportunity to participate in music programs at their schools. As someone who was heavily involved in the band programs in Fairfax County Public Schools, I have to say I completely agree with the sentiment that taking away these programs would be detrimental to the student population. I was fortunate to have enough musical ability to do reasonably well in the band programs, but I am the first to admit that some of the most important lessons I learned in those classes address issues besides music – something that I’ve also heard from so many others who participated in the fine arts. Taking away these programs, or delaying the grade in which students can participate in the programs, would therefore decrease the value of the experience in Fairfax County Public Schools.
After the FEA members gave their speeches, I asked if the organization had been speaking with members of the General Assembly about their concerns regarding the budget. According to acting FEA president Michael Hairston, many members took the time to travel down to Richmond for “a successful lobby day” in late January and even more will be participating in a rally in Richmond this weekend that will call for schools to be fully funded. He also pointed out that FEA has endorsed Eileen Filler-Corn for Delegate in the 41st and Sandy Evans for School Board from Mason District and members will be working to educate people about why those are the best candidates on education related issues.
Overall, I thought the people who spoke conveyed a very good message that laid out how the Governor’s budget proposal would have a negative impact on the student population. Furthermore, I was very pleased to see them highlight how one of the main reasons many families and businesses locate in Fairfax County is because it has a very good school system. Since this also helps to drive the home values up, generate well paying jobs, and help to make sure that students are prepared for the 21st Century job market, following through on severe cuts to the schools could also have a negative impact on our already struggling economy.
Of course one of the hardest things about the education budget is that Gov. McDonnell and so many of the Republicans in the General Assembly have already make it clear that they won’t consider even remotely raising taxes. This is despite the fact that community members in Fairfax have been saying that they’re willing to pay a little more if it means the revenue will be there to maintain the high quality schools in the County. After all, the great schools in the area have such a positive impact on their quality of life and the local economy that the investment would be well worth it in the long run. So while we might not see the results we want on this budget, I’m still very glad to see we have people like these FEA members and other concerned citizens who won’t silently stand by as Gov. Bob McDonnell and his Republican colleagues try to “balance the budget on our children’s backs.”