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Commentaries

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Editor’s note: Last week’s editorial that listed the spending per pupil by the school districts in Virginia generated quite a bit of reaction from our readers. Those responding were given the opportunity, through this commentary section, to let their thoughts on the subject be printed. We appreciate those who responded and those are printed below.

Disappointed in editorial

    Table 15 of the Super-intendent’s Annual Report of Virginia seems to be getting a lot of attention over the last couple of weeks. 
    This is the report that shows Bedford County/ City has the overall next to last lowest expenditure per pupil in the school system compared to all other school systems in the Commonwealth.  This statistic has been grasped and used largely to imply that Bedford County/City is  not adequately supporting our school system and students.
    If you look at the data for the local contribution per student shown in the table, you see that Bedford County/City provided more funding per student than 34 other jurisdictions in the Commonwealth.
    We may still want to debate if the county/city is providing enough funding for our schools, but it should not be on the basis that our contribution makes us next to last in the Commonwealth.
    I was especially disappointed in the way the information was presented in the recent Bedford Bulletin editorial.

Chuck Neudorfer
District 2, Supervisor
Distorting the truth
 
    After reading your editorial in the April 11 Bulletin it seems even small local newspapers can distort the truth as they wish and thought more information was required. Like clockwork the yearly school budget brings comments from some parents, the Bedford County Education Association, and now the Bedford Bulletin about how low Bedford is in the amount of money spent per student. The editorial even ended with the snide comment: “Thank goodness for Orange County.”
    I searched for more relevant information to add to the information in the editorial (at least that was correct but also misleading). There is a Virginia website: (https://p1pe.doe.virginia.gov/datareports/assess_test_result.do) where one can get the results of Virginia’s SOL testing, the official yardstick for how our schools are performing. Just to be clear, I don’t happen to agree with this method where students are taught to the SOL test but it is (I assume) the standard for comparing schools. I created my own chart of per student spending of schools in Virginia (just like the one in the editorial) but I added a column for each school containing the average percentage of students passing the SOL tests in each school.
    The results are enlightening and do seem to prove that spending more money on schools does not necessarily improve education. In fact the relationship between money spent and higher passing percentages doesn’t actually exist. For example, Arlington, which is at the top of the list in the editorial, seemingly would be the best school but has a score of 87 percent passing while Orange County, who is last on the list, had a score of 88 percent. What does that say about the folks who say that Bedford (one notch above Orange) is not doing their best to make sure the school has all the money it needs? Well, with a score of 88 percent it doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or Doctor of Education) to see that although Bedford doesn’t have the highest SOL pass average, it does have a higher one than the top four school districts in that list. Using this information it might be said that list should be viewed such that being at the bottom isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
    I am not saying that Bedford teachers don’t deserve a raise but I am saying that the people who keep using the per student expenditure as a yardstick of how well our schools are doing are using the wrong, or at least, incomplete information. Even the Bedford County Education Association has stated in the past that because Bedford is so low in relationship to other Virginia schools we can’t possibly get or keep good teachers (shame on the teacher’s representative for using such tactics). I, on the other hand, would say that Bedford has some of the best teachers in Virginia because they actually care about teaching and education and even though Bedford’s per student cost is almost at the bottom of the list they continue to educate students who score as well as or better than most of the schools in Virginia.
    I believe every taxpayer in Bedford should appreciate the effort of our teachers and should start thinking in terms of quality of education and not the cost of education. Personally I see no problem in not being at the top of the list of money spent as long as they continue to be above over half the schools in the state (67 of 134 in average SOL passes). How can that not be a good reflection on the quality of teachers and education being received by Bedford students? Even though I have no children I congratulate our teachers for not only providing good education but providing it at a good value which in these economic times is always a good thing.
    Of course, that is just my opinion. I could be wrong.
 
Dennis Strong
Thaxton

The numbers do lie

    Actually, the numbers do lie. 
    Last week’s editorial about Virginia’s cost-per-student “numbers” implied that Bedford was doing a disservice to our students by being second to last on that list.  Here’s another list.  These are on time graduation rates by county released by the Department of Education in 2010.
      Seems you can make the numbers say whatever you want.  Like Mark Twain once said, “There are lies, damned lies and statistics.”  Oh yeah, thank goodness for Arlington (number one on last week’s list and number 73 on this one).
1. Falls Church - 97%
2. Clarke - 96%
3. Hanover - 95%
4. Lancaster - 94%
5. Patrick - 94%
6. Loudoun - 94%
7. Mathews - 94%
8. Bedford County - 93%
9. King George - 93%
10. Warren - 93%
11. Louisa - 92%
12. Scott - 92%
13. Rappahannock - 92%
14. York - 92%
15. Albemarle - 92%
16. Bland - 92%
17. Floyd - 91%
18. Madison - 91%
19. Poquoson - 91%
20. Fairfax County - 91%
21. Roanoke County - 91%
22. Highland - 91%
23. Fluvanna - 91%
24. Shenandoah - 91%
25. Stafford - 91%
26. Fauquier - 90%
27. Botetourt - 90%
28. Charlotte - 90%
29. King and Queen - 90%
30. Radford - 90%
31. Martinsville - 90%
32. Colonial Heights - 90%
33. Rockingham - 89%
34. Alleghany - 89%
35. Surry - 89%
36. Charles City - 89%
37. Salem - 89%
38. Buena Vista - 89%
39. Greene - 89%
40. Chesapeake - 88%
41. New Kent - 88%
42. Spotsylvania - 88%
43. Manassas Park - 88%
44. Smyth - 88%
45. Grayson - 88%
46. Prince William - 88%
47. Chesterfield - 88%
48. Franklin County - 88%
49. Augusta - 88%
50. Culpeper - 87%
51. Carroll - 87%
52. Cumberland - 87%
53. Buchanan - 87%
54. Dickenson - 87%
55. Galax - 87%
56. Amherst - 87%
57. Craig - 86%
58. Isle of Wight - 86%
59. Amelia - 86%
60. Henrico - 86%
61. Washington - 86%
62. Goochland - 86%
63. Powhatan - 86%
64. Winchester - 86%
65. Pulaski - 86%
66. Virginia - 86%
67. Virginia Beach - 85%
68. Page - 85%
69. Mecklenburg - 85%
70. Montgomery - 85%
71. Wise - 85%
72. Brunswick - 84%
73. Arlington - 84%
74. Bath - 84%
75. Middlesex - 84%
76. Russell - 84%
77. Appomattox - 84%
78. Giles - 84%
79. Frederick - 84%
80. Pittsylvania - 84%
81. Henry - 83%
82. Orange - 83%
83. Williamsburg - 83%
84. Norton - 83%
85. Buckingham - 83%
86. Halifax - 83%
87. Essex - 82%
88. Nottoway - 82%
89. Covington - 82%
90. Staunton - 81%
91. Wythe - 81%
92. Waynesboro - 81%
93. King William - 81%
94. Prince George - 81%
95. Bristol - 81%
96. Charlottesville - 80%
97. Harrisonburg - 80%
98. Suffolk - 80%
99. Hampton - 79%
100. Northumberland - 79%
101. Campbell - 79%
102. Danville - 79%
103. Gloucester - 79%
104. Alexandria - 79%
105. Caroline - 78%
106. Rockbridge - 78%
107. Southampton - 78%
108. Nelson - 77%
109. Dinwiddie - 77%
110. Fredericksburg - 77%
111. Westmoreland - 77%
112. Newport News - 77%
113. Franklin City - 77%
114. Northampton - 77%
115. Manassas - 77%
116. Greensville - 76%
117. Lynchburg - 75%
118. Prince Edward - 75%
119. Petersburg - 74%
120. Tazewell - 74%
121. Norfolk - 74%
122. Accomack - 73%
123. Lee - 73%
124. Richmond City - 72%
125. Hopewell - 72%
126. Richmond County - 70%
127. Lunenburg - 69%
128. Sussex - 69%
129. Roanoke City - 68%
130. Portsmouth - 67%

Mark Laperle
Bedford