John Wood Continues Plugging
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.]