Complex problems seldom have single causes or simple solutions. But the Board of Supervisors has too often rubber stamped school officials requests without holding them accountable for results.
SAT scores over the past 5 years in Fairfax County have declined by a whopping 27 points. The last time scores dropped was three decades ago, 1989 to 1993, when they fell by 1 point.
The Fairfax school board doesn’t want to talk about it. When they’re cornered, they blame Covid. They also claim the drop is consistent with declining test scores in other schools around Virginia and America.
But over the same period, national scores have remained relatively flat. Scores Virginia-wide actually increased 14 points. Montgomery County increased 58 points.
Why are Fairfax students underperforming? It’s surely complicated. Simplistic answers seldom account for complex problems.
No doubt covid played a role, as did the school board’s relatively outsized pandemic reaction. Keeping kids out of school was inevitably going to result in a loss of learning.
Another factor may be the school board’s passionate pursuit of woke ideology. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine student achievement suffering when performance isn’t the priority.
The One Fairfax policy is a good example. We were told One Fairfax would close the gap in student opportunity and achievement. Unfortunately, it seems to have done so by bringing down top performers without lifting those at the bottom even slightly.
Another contributor could be the power of teacher’s unions which are increasingly agitating for making schools better places to work than they are to learn.
We’ve also seen a growing outflow of teachers moving to school systems that don’t force them to deny what they know to be true, or compel them to compromise their conscience.
One problem they i don’t have is a lack of money. The Board of Supervisors just approved $250 million more for a total public school budget of $3.5 billion. That’s about $17,000 per student, far higher than Virginia’s average $12,216 per student.
One thing’s clear, the Board of Supervisors can’t keep rubber-stamping spending increases without insisting on an honest accounting of where the money’s going.
Political accountability isn’t much in vogue these days. I hope to change that as a member of the Fairfax Board from the Dranesville district.
We need more diversity of opinion on the Board. Failing schools and bloated budgets are what we get without it.