Instead of Funds for Instruction–Especially for Youngest Students–Passing Referendum Will Squander $40 Million on Vanity Project at $100,000 per Student

Passing a $120 Million Bond Creating 30 Years of Debt for a Small City Is NOT About Education

Fairfax College Placement from Maintained and Reconstructed Schools Show Up Referendum Fallacies 

Passage of Referendum Instead of  Renovation Removes $40 Million from Classroom Use 

By Sam Mabry

Mabry is a Former City Vice Mayor

As the students at George Mason High were left to languish over the last several years in facilities that were increasingly in need of repair and replacement, the City Council and School Board allowed them to deteriorate even further.  This strategy of demolition by neglect to convince the voters to approve $120 Million of debt for 30 years is a craven act on several levels: It used the students to facilitate a mandate for a new school and it made it appear that no action short of a new facility would be sufficient for educational purposes.


Langley High School recently underwent a $70 Million-plus renovation and added 23,000 square feet, also updated and added study areas, new plumping and electricity equipment. The original school dates back to the 1960’s.


Fairfax County has put asunder both of those Council and School Board strategies.  The County has shown that reconstruction and repair of facilities, to keep students safe and to enhance educational objectives, is possible and at a cost that preserves more funding for classroom requirements–of which the major component is competitive teacher salaries.

Undertaking a $75 Million renovation and expansion at GMHS instead of new school would save about $40 Million in principal and interest for instruction. Four years from now, when the $7 Million per year bond charges hit,  funds for instruction/teacher salaries will be under tremendous stress. And those students who now are about to enter the school system or are in the 1st or 2nd grade will be the most adversely effected by any budget shortfalls.

Recall that reconstruction alternatives for GMHS costing much less were presented to the Board and Council by consultants and were rejected.

Why It’s a Vanity Project

There are many ways to measure high school educational achievement and the quality of the schools.  Spending $120 Million on a new school instead of rehabilitating an exiting facility for much less is NOT one of them. For example, the colleges or universities to which its students are accepted is one measurement of a school’s success.  In this regard, McLean and Langley–the former well maintained given its age and the latter having completed a $70 Million renovation and expansion–both faired superbly on student colleges acceptances.  The 2015 McLean High School graduate acceptance list of colleges follows.

Colleges and Universities McLean High School Students Admitted

2015

Swarthmore College
3
Vassar College
2
United States Naval Academy
2
Wesleyan University
1
United States Military Academy
1
University of Richmond
1
James Madison
28
Princeton University
1
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
2
University of Pennsylvania
2
Dartmouth College
1
Johns Hopkins University
1
Washington University in St. Louis
1
Cornell University
2
Brown University
2
University of Notre Dame
1
Vanderbilt University
1
Rice University
2
University of California— Berkeley
2
Emory University
2
Georgetown University
2
University of Virginia
31
University of California— Los Angeles
1
Carnegie Mellon University
1
Tufts University
1
Wake Forest University
1
University of Michigan— Ann Arbor
3
University of North Carolina— Chapel Hill
1
New York University
3
College of William and Mary
17
Georgia Institute of Technology
4
Case Western Reserve University
2
Northeastern University
2
Boston University
1
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
1
University of Wisconsin— Madison
2
Pennsylvania State University— University Park
4
Virginia Tech
34

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