Wednesday, May 30, 2007

FY2008 School Board Line Item Preschool Funding

When you hear the phrase "line item" it is almost always associated with a veto of some sort in national politics. It is very rare that a particular item in local politics is look in the same light as say alot of the "pork" we read about that is attached to bills in Congress. Usually at the local level the Board of Supervisors merely reduces the amount of funds a particlaur department will be receiving from revenues in the County budget and leave it up to the department for determining if they really want the funds going for a particular purpose. Thats politics.
In this case, the FY2008 School Boards budget proposed the inclusion of a pre-school initiative for at risk children whereby allowing these children to begin pre-school a year earlier at the age of three.
While Mr. Kaine in Richmond has been a strong proponent of a "universal" program throughout the state, this measure is more finite. The proposed initiative was to target a very specific at risk demographic within the county in the hopes have giving them the opportunity to begin early with education. Individuals meeting the requirement for the proposal are considered at or below the current national poverty line. If we are to truly believe in the idea that the only way to curb poverty in our society is through education then the story should end with the kids getting the money. It does not.
The Board of Supervisors last month heard before them 8b.12 regarding the issue of considering an ammendment to the School Boards budget endorsing the at risk intiative that the board had previously opposed. Mind you there are programs that are running currently like Headstart, Title 1 and Virginias own which targets very specific schools, but this plan was more targeted to a specific, yet small group of residents.
In the end, members of the Board took a very narrow view. By narrow I mean narrow. Two members, Humphrey and Sowder actually convinced themselves that because no residents in their distrcist would be eligible for the program saw that as an opportunity to remain unsupportive. While I understand the proposal would in reality only impact 20% of the total number in other districts who could take advantage of the initiative this go around, the fact that because the Midlothian and Matoaca distrcist are fortunate enough not to have eligibility for the program does not somehow displace those members from responsibility of addressing the welfare of county residents in other districts who may not be as fortunate. Given the fact that the School Board wanted this program and had determined to use the funds directed them by the Board of Supervisors you would think that I don't know the educators might know something more about the problem and possibly working out a meaningful solution. Afterall, this isn't a case where the School Board demanded more funds from the Board; it was in their original budget.
Supervisors King and Warren were outvoted 3-2 by Humphrey, Miller and Sowder. Another wonderful example of how one vote denies another action in the county. The fact that Sowder and Humphrey expressed their view on account of lack of particpation within their districts was very disturbing. I think there simply has to be more evolved reasoning than that if you are going to take a line item out of the Budget of the School Board.
Taking this kind of view in terms of the County seems very misplaced. With all due respect to those members, much of the proposed growth in the county moving forward appears in the districts that would not have participated in the intiative, could you imagine if those Supervisors not experiencing this growth simply used their logic and voted down zonings and growth simply because well its not in their districts.
We are all residents of Chesterfield and it is our obligation never to forget those among us that are less fortunate.


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Don Sowder should be ashamed of the kind of rationale he expressed for not endorsing this. Its one thing to vote something down on its merits, but it sounded to me he really though it was fine for the Schools to have the program but since it was not applicable in Midlothain it was not worth his time. Wake up! Bermuda and Dale and not like Midlothian. This Board time and time again fails to think of a bigger picture.

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