There was a time that Prince William County schools faced a possible cut of more than 700 jobs in its fiscal 2011 budget. Gradually that number was whittled down until it finally reached zero. That was great news. The school system went from calamity to calm relatively quickly and restored peace of mind to parents, students, and schools’ staff.
Of course, that great news simply meant that the status quo was maintained. But recently, Prince William County schools became hopeful that they might actually get extra staff thanks to federal stimulus funds. With those funds, the school system could have hired 180 extra teachers for its classrooms.
That was all thanks to the U.S. Congress, which recently decided to make 10 billion extra federal stimulus dollars available for education jobs across the country. Virginia will get about $249.5 million of that.
It was up to the Prince William Board of County Supervisors to make the final decision on the new jobs. And it did. The supervisors decided not to use the stimulus funds this fiscal year and instead to reconsider them next time.
To read about this, go here.
The use of stimulus funds is a complicated topic. In this case, the funds would have lasted only for a year. After that, the school system would have had to come up with the money to keep any new jobs. Something similar happened when Prince William County schools decided in 2009 to give a raise to school system employees beginning in fiscal 2010. The raises were made possible by federal stimulus funds that would last for only two years – 2010 and 2011. After that, county taxpayers will be footing the bill. Some county supervisors were skeptical of the move back then and have apparently retained that attitude this time around.
Ultimately, the current crop of stimulus funds may cost the county money. But it’s hard to deny that the extra money would benefit the students in Prince William, at least in the short term. The fewer teachers there are the more students each individual teacher must instruct. We all know that students learn better in smaller classes. So, it’s reasonable to assume that having 180 new teachers would mean smaller classrooms and better education to a certain extent.
Regardless, until the supervisors reconsider the funds for fiscal 2012, the discussion is moot.
In the meantime, county officials and taxpayers must think about which is more important: saving money or educating students? That may seem like an easy question to answer, but it’s not. More money in one place means less money elsewhere, so someone will suffer for the sake of better education. Everybody must understand who will suffer, how much they will suffer, and how much schools will benefit before stimulus funds should be used. Everybody has an extra year to think about it.