My primary focus, as a Supervisor, will be to address the many funding issues of our county public school system. My goals are simple: to increase school funding for equitable teacher compensation, reduce class size and decrease our reliance upon classroom trailers. As a teacher, I know where the problems lie, and I see that our county government and school board do not work together to solve these problems. I intend to take a hands-on approach, regularly meeting with the Superintendent, his staff, and the school board, so that the Board of Supervisors and the schools work side-by-side all year long.
Prince William County public schools is the largest employer in the county. That means that, above every single other employer in the county, the way we pay these employees will impact more employees than any other employer. If we underpay our school employees, we are shorting our county tax revenues, our local businesses, the local real estate market, and additionally burdening the county with increased needs if the retirement plans do not keep pace with the increasing cost of living in the area. Prince William teacher compensation is not competitive. Teachers earn less than similarly skilled and experienced employees of the county in other departments. Our teachers also earn less than teachers in all surrounding counties. Our teacher pay scale is problematic. The first 15 years need to be adjusted for adequate, fair and competitive pay. Our schools require additional funding for this to happen, as well as a firm 5-year plan. Starting salaries, step increases, and catch up steps need to be addressed to ensure that we can hire and retain the best teachers.
Addressing class size and trailer reduction is a decades old problem in our county. The supervisors have traditionally been unwilling to address this challenge, specifically during budget season. Trailers negatively impact teacher work environments, negatively impact student learning and contribute to safety concerns. The first step towards reducing classroom size is to address the high school class sizes by one. Our high school classrooms are the largest in our district. My long-term goal would be to address class size at all levels of education. Our trailers will be addressed by ensuring that future school buildings are designed vertically, which will allow for more classrooms per building. High classroom sizes and crowded schools are shown to increase the mental health needs of students. One way to address this problem, without needing additional infrastructure, would be to utilize the existing apartment space within each school as a mental health suite. This space would allow students room for group therapy and one-on-one discussions with mental health counselors, in a space more conducive to their mental health needs than a sterile office space. This would allow for additional hires in counseling, social work, and psychology, without requiring additional costs for space.
Lastly, school equity needs to be addressed through additional funding. When new schools are built, we must also fairly allocate funds to all of our existing schools, so that each student and each school has equitable technology and school facilities. Current supervisors have ignored school funding for decades and failed to invest in existing schools. This is important, as all Prince William County residents deserve the same high-quality education. Sadly, equity has not been a priority for our county, and as a result, our achievement gap continues to grow. Further, our schools recently passed a measure ensuring children and staff are treated equally, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender, but our county has not yet protected other staff and community service recipients. Equity for our LGBT+ residents and employees must also be explicitly formalized in written policy, to ensure that our county is recognized as a welcoming community for all businesses and residents.