John Wood Continues Plugging

By Loudoun Insider

Three people sent me this blast email from John Wood, all of whom thought it was fishy.  It was sent to an email list called “Sterling Women” by someone in that organization, but the email is written by John Wood.  He makes his Educate Loudoun pitch, but somehow forgets to mention that Educate Loudoun is supporting the current no-reform, protect the status quo, renew Hatrick’s contract School Board Chairman John Stevens.  He then ends by touting the business need for good schools and lists his credentials, including his spot as Chairman of the Loudoun Economic Development Committee.

This is right down the same path as his infamous letter on EDC letterhead urging the Board of Supervisors to “fully fund” Hatrick’s provably bloated school budget.  Once again we hear about how Hatrick’s budget is more important than our tax rate to attract and retain businesses.  And if this is a political advertisement for Educate Loudoun, shouldn’t this have a disclosure similar to a candidate email blast?  While I like their stated goals and some of the candidates they have endorsed, I still don’t trust a thing about this PAC.

Text of the email is provided below the fold.

Dear Sterling Women,

 

I’d like to talk about education in Loudoun County and two local education organizations with which I have been personally involved: the Loudoun Education Foundation and Educate Loudoun.

 

What defines a great education system? It’s pretty simple: great outcomes. I think we can all agree that a great education outcome is a well-educated student who is prepared for the next phase in their career. These outcomes are achieved through the work of motivated teachers who are provided with the appropriate tools and placed in an environment that encourages cooperation between the business and education communities.

 

A partnership between the business and education community is an important piece of a great education system. There are a handful of cooperative efforts between these two communities, working together towards building a strong education system, such as the Loudoun Education Foundation. Businesses and individuals work together to fund the Loudoun Education Foundation, which then purposes those funds as grant money for teachers within Loudoun County to apply for and use for special classroom projects and initiatives that their annual classroom budgets may not allow. The problem with this organization is the paltry amount of grant money it has to award.

 

I recently joined forces with other members of the Loudoun County business and education communities to form a group called Educate Loudoun. The goal of Educate Loudoun is to improve the education provided in Loudoun County, by way of supporting Loudoun County School Board candidates who reflect and agree with the Educate Loudoun platform, which is as follows:

 

· New public education choices for all families

 

· Management reforms such as employee evaluation and compensation together with measurable goals

 

· Long-range planning to manage increasing enrollment with limited resources

 

· Transparency through community-based meetings, electronic document publishing and improved relationships with community stakeholders

 

The 2012 Loudoun County budget is $1.6 billion. Almost 68 percent of the budget is allocated for public schools. How do the School Board members, who determine how to spend the majority of our county’s budget, get into office? Elections.
A Board of Supervisors election campaign will cost $50,000 to $400,000 per candidate; whereas, the cost of an election campaign for a School Board candidate will typically cost zero to $10,000 per candidate. The cost of running for School Board is low, and their impact on our county’s budget is high. It makes real sense to focus on the School Board because it can make the biggest impact for our kids and for our economy. Better education outcomes means more talented kids from which businesses can choose to hire.

 

We’re currently interviewing candidates to see who we will support in the coming School Board election. It is essential that these candidates have a like mind on the issues that are important as School Board members. An individual School Board member has the authority to do nothing alone; you need four other votes in order to make something happen.

 

By state law, any organization that is devoted to affecting an election must be called a political action committee or a political party. Because Educate Loudoun is not associated with any political party and School Board races are non-partisan, a PAC was the appropriate vehicle to use. In fact, our members cover the spectrum of political persuasions, from the far right to the far left. Our individual politics do not matter, because we all agree on the core principles that will help our education system achieve even greater success than it already has.

 

Loudoun County has grown an average of 3,000 kids per year over the past 10 years. That rate of increase will continue, if not speed up, in the next 10 years. Under the current plan, we’re short in the out-years several thousand seats, which means that those several thousand kids will not have a public school to go to unless things change.

 

We cannot continue down the path of funding $100 million schools, because Loudoun needs to protect its AAA-credit rating and can’t increase its debt cap. To ensure these additional students receive the education they deserve, we need to provide alternative school choices for the citizens of Loudoun County. With choice comes competition, and with competition comes significant improvements in our education eco-system. Whether we are talking public schools, private schools, charter schools, contract schools, or home schools-any combination will help to improve outcomes.

 

Currently, there are no charter schools, no contract schools, and very few private schools in our region. A competitive education ecosystem will help to relieve the number of kids that are being placed on the shoulders of the school system. If you have 10 additional private schools at 800 kids per school, that’s 8,000 kids that are off the books of the Loudoun County school system, reducing the operating costs by almost $96 million per year (and reducing the tax rate by 12 cents). That would also eliminate the need for Loudoun County to have to build three or four schools.

 

The school system could then apply much more focus on rolling out 21st century learning initiatives such as the Khan Academy for math and The Jason Project for science.

 

Education is a big investment with the promise of a large return of creating the best educated kids that will drive more businesses to Loudoun County and thus more economic prosperity.

 

[John B. Wood is the CEO of Telos Corporation in Ashburn, founder of the CEO Cabinet and current Chairman of the Loudoun County Economic Development Commission. His monthly column will appear in Loudoun Business. Follow John on Twitter at twitter.com/john_b_wood.]


Comments

  • edmundburkenator says:

    Eric, you are right as to what voters/parents see as issues.

    I have no doubt most are concerned about “size of schools, student/teacher ratios, HS land requirements, filling under utilized schools, how we are to actually cut the operating budget without sacrificing our student’s education, etc.”

    But I don’t think the foundation argument is any more manufactured than the items you list.

    Perhaps it is a distraction from election-time discussion.

    But what if we could have more populated (more cost-effective) classrooms in HS if we had much, much less populated ones K-5?

  • Eric the 1/2 troll says:

    “But what if we could have more populated (more cost-effective) classrooms in HS if we had much, much less populated ones K-5?”

    We do already have that to a degree, EB. I know that when I raised a concern that four of my son’s 11th grade classes exceeded 30 students this time around (that is really a shocking number in and of itself given that many are calling for slashing the operating budget more or less blindly and that equates directly to even more increases in class size…sorry for the aside) the answer I was given was in part it is due to the fact that they try to increase class size as the students get older in order to keep the younger HS students in smaller classes longer.

    This makes some sense to me if the answer is that SOMEONE must have larger classes.

  • Eric the 1/2 troll says:

    “I have done the research. I’ve looked at the studies. I have followed the success of other programs already in place.”

    And I argue that it is going to take a lot more than “they did it in other areas” to convince me (and likely many others) that it is right for Loudoun – assuming we are back to talking about vouchers and the likes.

  • Bill Fox says:

    I know your stuck on this voucher/tax credit issue. However, there are two reasons your should not be concerned about this. The first reason is that this is not even close to the top of my priority list. This is more of a philosophical preference than a campaign plank. It is based on my belief that having more choices is always superior to fewer choices, and that when a customer chooses not to use your product because of concerns over quality, it is fundamentally unfair to force them to continue to pay for your product in addition to paying for the product they choose. However, I am also philosophically committed to the idea that education is the among the top two or three most important public services provided, and that providing the best education possible is essential to the moral and economic health of the republic. Since the latter commitment takes precedence in my mind over the former, I would never support any type of voucher or tax credit program unless I was 100% sure that I could do it without negatively affecting the quality education delivered by the public schools. I have not committed to anyone that I would propose or support a voucher/tax credit program. What I have said is that I am committed to giving as much support as I can to education alternatives, and have expressed the philosophical proclivities stated above.

    The second reason this should be a non-issue for you is that the way the Virginia Constitution is currently written and interpreted it is very unlikely that Loudoun will even have the opportunity to deal with this issue. Until these Constitutional questions are resolved, vouchers are a non-starter in VA.

    So, if you want to cast your vote based on this one issue, that is certainly your right. I am only suggesting that you may be straining at the proverbial gnat while swallowing the camel.

  • FedUp says:

    “the threats of voting against the bond referendum are by those who are a little ignorant, quite frankly.

    Loudounite – Being that the past two school bond referendums passed by very slim margins, I guess your statement means you think there are a lot of ignorant people in the county. I think the referendum is in danger of being rejected because taxpayers are alarmed about the cost of HS-8 at a time when they feel the county has already taken on too much debt. Remember that the decision on the Dulles Metro is upcoming and if the county decides to commit to the project, then that will put us another $400 million in debt.

    “what about the other schools and other sites?”

    They seem to have been well thought out, all options were considered, and they will likely be the least expensive options for taxpayers. I can’t say that about the $110 million HS-8. It was very disappointing that the viable option of expanding four existing high schools was not even studied. In my opinion, putting all three schools in the same ballot question was a mistake.

  • Eric the 1/2 Troll says:

    “…when a customer chooses not to use your product because of concerns over quality, it is fundamentally unfair to force them to continue to pay for your product in addition to paying for the product they choose. ”

    Bill,

    I am glad this is not one of your top issues and, trust me, I do not vote or decide who to back on a single issue. That being said, I would like to challenge the concept you put forward above.

    For all the societal reasons you cited in your post in support of our public school system, I would like you to consider that the person you cited above is actually more analagous to a shooper who ate thier meal at a restaurant then does not want to pay for it. More than likely they directly benefited already from a public education and they definitiely benefit each and every day from our system of public education. Now they wish to suggest they do not want to pay for it when it is other’s turn to benefit from the system. THIS is what is fundamentally unfair.

    None the less, if you say it is not a big issue with you, so be it. SB is a very, very, tough job and I really do respect and appreciate anyone who steps up and says they will do it. Assuming it is not done for some sort of longterm political goals (we have seen that before in Loudoun, of course) everybody who offers to serve should be commended.

Leave Comment