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For Governor Bob McDonnell, it’s a “perfect storm.” Virginia’s budget tanks. He’s elected by a landslide, having made no secret about his conservative legislation and leanings. Like all conservatives, McDonnell believes less is better relating to government and he hates taxes for government services. Solution? Axe public school funding: Not a dime of tax-payers’ hard-earned money spent, never mind the consequences.
Conservatives have always maligned public schools. Columnist Cal Thomas calls them “government” schools. He suggests the religious right send their children to private Christian schools. Better yet, home-school. This would also take care of the problem of those pesky women demanding equal pay in the workplace.
Virginia asked for it. Democratic candidate, Creigh Deeds, indicated a need for new taxes to shore up the struggling budget; McDonnell pledged his conservative mantra, “No new taxes.” Virginia bought it.
So, all you parents storming school boards from Bedford to Roanoke, complaining about school closings and program cuts, what did you expect? There is no free lunch. Nor will there be any free school breakfasts for poor kids. With 28,000 educators falling to McDonnell’s axe, we’ll be lucky to have any public schools left. Cal Thomas will be proud.
As a taxpayer, resident, parent, and school teacher in Bedford County I am writing to appeal to the community of Bedford to rise to a very special challenge that confronts us. Budget shortfalls caused by the economic downturn threaten our community. A reduction in the amount of sales tax, income tax and property tax means there are huge budget shortfalls across the Commonwealth, including here in Bedford.
We face profound budget deficits, which can be resolved in two ways. The first is to cut and slash every program to the bone, closing several of our small community schools, boosting the number of children in classrooms, laying off our teachers, ending the school breakfast program, dismantling valuable programs which help many to learn—in short crippling our children’s potential to receive the education they will need to face an increasingly complex world.
The second option is one I support. Step up Bedford and demand that your leaders adequately fund public education. Don’t shortchange the children of this community.
I am a taxpayer and I would be willing to share in the collective cost of paying a small increase in taxes to fund this essential service. The children cannot stand up and demand this for themselves. As a community we must join together to see that our education system is funded or we doom a future generation to mediocrity. In the words of Derek Bok, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Let’s not.
Karen R. Nuzzo
Impressed by shelter
On Saturday morning, some girlfriends and I visited the Bedford County Animal Shelter.
I can’t tell you how very impressed we were with the cleanliness of the pen area and the condition of the animals that are awaiting adoption. Bedford County should be very proud of these employees and volunteers. They have a passion for the well-being of these animals and they put out the effort to keep this facility in a condition that is way above and beyond the standard of other shelters.
It was spotless, the dogs were happy and they all had clean water and food readily available. The staff was very friendly and extremely helpful. We all conveyed our delight to the staff, but I wanted to express my “thank you” publicly.
Keep up the great work everyone, and know that your effort to bring comfort to these animals is greatly appreciated!
My name is Dina Linkenhoker and I am the president of the Bedford County Education Association. Although I’m grateful for the amount of attention Mr. John Barnhart has focused on the importance of funding public education in Bedford County, it seems his last editorial has led him to owe two more apologies.
The first apology should be to your readers for republishing such a poorly- researched piece of journalism. My students do their homework, Mr. Barnhart, and I would advise you to do the same. Unfortunately your piece contained many errors.
First of all, you failed to adequately research the salaries of employees of Bedford County Public Schools, our peace officers and our social workers. If you had, you would find much less of a discrepancy among the members of these respected professions who often work cooperatively for the benefit of the children of our community.
Since you seem to be hesitant to use the Internet, allow me to model the skill of conducting a little research. Since the Bedford County Public Schools website publishes teacher salaries, you can clearly see that only teachers with 30 years of experience have salaries exceeding $50,000. Although this figure lags behind the state average for this amount of experience considerably, it is evidence to refute your earlier, erroneous claim.
For the salaries of our education support personnel, including secretaries, bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers and maintenance staff, you may have to actually place a phone call to the human resources department. I’m sure our staff, which is more than competent and extremely helpful, will be happy to assist you as you dust off those rusty reporting skills.
As for your claim that BCEA is a “teachers’ union,” allow me to point out that we represent all educators from administrators to teachers to the support personnel I just mentioned. We all work hard to provide the students with an education, including clean classrooms, hot breakfasts and lunches, a curriculum based on the Virginia Standards of Learning, and instruction based on best practices to serve children with a variety of educational needs.
As you may or may not know, depending on whether or not you’ve taken the time to verify this information, Virginia is one of five “right-to-work” states identified by the National Council on Teacher Quality. This means that educators in this commonwealth are not permitted to collectively bargain or go on strike. Based on this research, I believe the description of our professional organization as an association rather than a union is more appropriate. If you had also taken the time to research BCEA, you might have learned that our mission is to improve the teaching and learning environments in our schools.
May I also respond to the claim that I “sidestepped” the issue by pointing out that the current BCPS budget proposal calls for the elimination of 124 full time positions? My assumption was that, like a competent journalist, you might be interested in obtaining and reporting new and accurate information. Since it seems that the best you can do is reprint your previous column, this certainly doesn’t seem to be the case. However, your readers may be interested to know that this number is likely to climb based on what is occurring in Richmond. I would hope this is not the first time you’re hearing this news.
I will also respond to the claim that I owe an apology to the taxpayers of Bedford County. First of all, it would be difficult to apologize to a demographic I belong to. As my husband and I live in Bedford County and work for Bedford County Public Schools, I believe we’re each fairly typical of the average BCPS employee. We also have two children who attend Bedford County Public Schools. Many of our employees have children and grandchildren who attend the schools in our division as well.
I don’t recall seeing Mr. Barnhart at the last school board meeting, so I’ll repeat a comment made by school board member Mr. Gary Hostutler. Since the school board does not have the power to raise its own revenue through taxation, and sales taxes may only be levied at the state level, he suggested that the county board of supervisors could take action to help to close the budget gap. Mr. Hostutler stated that if one penny is added to the 50-cent tax rate to be earmarked for education, it would cost a homeowner with $100,000 worth of property the sum total of $10 to support Bedford County Public Schools. This small amount would raise $750,000 for educating our children.
By the way, according to www.city-data.com, the median home price in Bedford County in 2008 was $202,400. This Web site also reports that the median household income in Bedford County in 2008 was $53,176.
Now, Mr. Barnhart, since you have pointed out that some people between Forest and Smith Mountain Lake live in single- and double-wide trailers, let’s take a rough estimate using Mr. Hostutler’s example and cut that $100,000 figure in half. That would mean that, by your own admission, you believe that there are families in Bedford County who can’t afford $5 to support public education.
We are already making cuts, Mr. Barnhart. Next year classes will be larger. Buses will be older. Classrooms may not be as clean. The number of schools in our division may even decrease. We as taxpayers need to meet the school board somewhere remotely closer to the middle.
By depriving people the opportunity to offer a contribution to improve education, no matter how large or small, you deny them a chance to improve the future of our community. I find this insulting, and I daresay there are many who would agree with me. This would merit yet another apology on your part.
Recently I received an email from a BCPS employee who does live in a single-wide trailer. This person told me that she has difficulty paying her utility bill, she is barely making ends meet, and that she can’t afford a pay cut. Wouldn’t you think that she’d much rather pay $5 in taxes than sacrifice a percentage of her paycheck?
As for the quality of journalism you have been displaying of late, I will inform you that we have a journalism class at Staunton River Middle School for sixth graders taught by a colleague of mine who has only worked here for two years. So if you’d like to visit, you might want to take advantage of the opportunity in the near future. Pink slips are expected to be issued quite soon. But I feel that it’s only fair to warn you: it’s a course offered only to advanced students.
My response to David McLoughlin’s latest letter:
He seems to be a very smart man, but he just doesn’t get it.
It’s been said that without the spirit of God dealing with an individual, even a PhD can’t understand the Bible. Let me share some scripture: I Corinthians 1:18 and following — note v.19-21. As you read note v.26, 27. In these verses Paul points out the cross was a stumbling block to the Jews and to the Greek (Gentiles) it was foolishness. But Paul said we preach Christ crucified and risen.
He also said God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise and the weak things to confound the mighty.
He might call me foolish and weak and he’d be right – I’m foolish and weak for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Horace Wooldrige Jr.
With all the political ‘gridlock’ and current contention in the Congress..perhaps we should review how we choose our politicians? The current T-parties symbolize our general electorate discontent and may be a subject for consideration.
My proposal is to initiate a voting system that allows negative votes as well as the usual positive votes (one for each party candidate). Right now, a no-vote is deemed an abstention (and a negative) and that’s why in an average election, less than 50 percent of the electorate votes. The non-voters are simply showing apathy and a big zero vote. In this new system of voting, the candidate with the highest positive or lowest negative number of votes wins.
Look at Robert’s Rules: Consider the party slate a ‘motion’ or an ‘amendment’ proposed and seconded by a regular political nomination committee. The popular votes are then “for,” “against” or “abstain.” The candidate with the highest positive count or, least negative, wins.
So this system potentially could a) create a higher voter turnout; b) provide an outlet for the frustration we all have for useless attack adds (those candidates get a big minus sign vote); and c) encourage getting rid of incumbents.
I believe a Christian is a person that has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord/Savior and committed to following the commandments/doctrines of the Bible.
I believe a Liberal Christian is a person that has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord/Savior, but isn’t really all that concerned about the commandments/doctrines of the Bible. This is the soft on sin way of thinking.
Liberal Christians also tend to be Pacifists, Socialists and Extreme Environmentalist.
Liberal Christians are Pacifists by being war protestor and death penalty opponents. Pacifists ignore the fact that the Bible calls for the execution of evil people that fail to follow the laws of the land or are the enemy of a nation.
Liberal Christians justify being Socialists because they believe the purpose of Jesus on earth was to help the poor so all people should help the poor through government Socialism. Socialists ignore the fact that the charity of the Bible was personal charity and not government charity.
Liberal Christians justify Extreme Environmentalism even though a lot of the people involved worship nature more than they worship God.
Liberal Christians also tend to vote for Democrats.
I really don’t think there is Biblical bases to support Pacifism, Socialism and Extreme Environmentalism.
I can understand why Liberals could vote for Democrats, but I do not see how Christians can vote for people in a political party that supports abortion and homosexuality.
Clifford D. Russell