WHAT ARE SOME OF THE 2019 ELECTION ISSUES FOR THE SCHOOL BOARD? — PERSONNEL

What are some of the issues we should expect School Board candidates to address?

Prince William School Board Races: Rematch for chairman, five other seats contested (insidenova.com) is a good place to start. That article includes this observation.

The school board sets policy for the school division, including approving the annual budget — set at $1.5 billion for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The school division employed more than 11,500 people and had 90,203 students enrolled in October.

Prince William School Board Races: Rematch for chairman, five other seats contested (insidenova.com) also provides a list of the School Board races and the candidates in each race.

How does the School Board exercise its authority?

The School Board’s primary task is to select the personnel who run the division. The top personnel decision is the selection of the Superintendent of Schools. Here are several articles related to the extension of our current school superintendent’s contract.

It is not obvious why Prince William County’s School Superintendent, Steven Walts, wanted a contract extension now. However, since the vote largely went along party lines, it is possible Walts hoped to improve his job security before the next election. Consider why he might want to do that.

In FY20, Dr. Walts’ salary will be $330,752 before an additional $100,000 plus in benefits such as tax-deductible tuition spending and contributions to retirement savings plans, such as a 403(b.) He also receives a company car and generous travel expenses. (from here)

Since the next School Board will decide if Walts keeps his salary and benefits, that will be an election issue.

Why does the Prince William County School Board exist?

The Constitution of Virginia requires each division to have a School Board.

Article VIII. Education
Section 7. School boards
The supervision of schools in each school division shall be vested in a school board, to be composed of members selected in the manner, for the term, possessing the qualifications, and to the number provided by law.

Because Article VIII. Education invests considerable power in the General Assembly, to a large extent the School Board must implement policies set by the General Assembly. In addition, the money the School Board spends comes from the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, General Assembly, and the Federal Government, and those funds come with lots of strings attached. That means the Federal Government, the state government, and the county government also exercise authority over our schools. That means that the School Board is effectively only one of the four different committees that run our public education system.

Putting four committees in charge is a messy, foolish way to run anything. Nevertheless, if we elect the right people and spend an inordinate amount of money, the School Board does have the capacity to ensure we select decent people to educate the children in our county. That is in fact the School Board’s primary job. However, if we do not select a decent School Board, we will not get decent educators for our county’s children.

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