A Silent Spring In Prince Edward For Public Schools

Published 2:25 pm Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The birds are back singing.

The spring peepers have returned in expansive chorus.

All the familiar seasonal voices in full throat.

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But one.

In stark contrast to this time last year, there were no voices advocating on behalf of the Prince Edward County School Board's request for $1.37 million in additional local funding during last week's public hearing on the budget.

No teachers.

No parents.

No school board members.

No school administrators.


The school board, of course, had already modified the $1.37 million request, drastically reducing it down to a $240,148 boost in local funds, but there was no chorus of folks supporting that, either.

Last year, the support for increased public school funding in Prince Edward County was deafening.

This year, it was mute.

There are various reasons, no doubt, and several possibilities come to mind.

Undoubtedly, there are people who believe their voice really won't change anything. Those who spoke so passionately last year saw the board of supervisors decline to add a cent to the advertised budget, even though many people said they'd support a tax increase to do so.

Why bother speaking at a public hearing when supervisorial minds appear to be made up? That question may have been asked by more than a few people this year.

Another reason may be that nothing coming out from Eagle Drive seemed to articulate the consequences of what would happen, if the $1.37 million increase were not approved, in a way that would rally the troops. Last year, the stark consequences were clearly laid out for all to see.

There was no sense of urgency as clearly on the radar this year.

Indeed, the school board's decision to reduce its own requested increase by more than $1 million would tend to endorse the view, by those looking from the outside, that the degree of urgency was not critical enough to fight for.

Why fight for a budgetary increase that school officials aren't going to fight in the final ditch for? That question may also have been asked by more than a few people this year. That question, I must concede, occurred to me and I raise my hand and admit my own contribution to the silence. If Eagle Drive wasn't going to publicly stand firm in strong advocacy for its own request, what reason was there to climb into the ring alone?

It is also possible the board of supervisors communicated so clearly that the request for a $1.37 million increase in local funding had no chance whatsoever that those on Eagle Drive felt it would be wiser not to fight a battle they did not believe they could win.

Whatever the reason, people stayed home from last week's public hearing on the County budget. Lots of people. And so the school system will receive slightly more than what it got last year in local funding, an amount many people felt was inadequate 12 months ago.

That seems to be okay with just about everyone.

Okay then.

But if it's not okay with just about everyone then now is the time to begin laying the groundwork for sustained advocacy for increased investment in public education next year. To be effective, voices need to be raised, petitions signed, letters written, phone numbers dialed, and all of that way before the actual public hearing at the end of April by the board of supervisors. The budget's nearly set in stone by the time the people are formally invited to express their opinion at the microphone, in fact.

There are positions on the board of supervisors up for election in November, too, and one incumbent, board chairman William G. “Buckie” Fore, is not running for reelection. If you feel passionately about public service, consider putting your name on the ballot.

But whatever you do, don't remain silent next year if you believe the Prince Edward County public schools deserve, and would benefit from, increased funding. The board of supervisors may still say No, but don't make it easy for them to do so. Make it as difficult as possible. Sustained advocacy is the only effective answer and when it is of the necessary size and scale it will, ultimately, bring its cause to triumphant conclusion.

The children of Prince Edward County deserve no less. They are reason enough to climb into the ring to fight on their behalf, even if it means fighting alone.

They deserve our voices, our words.

We may have the right to remain silent.

But we must not.

We simply must not do so.