The Washington Post published both a news article and an editorial,“Prince William’s Miserly Spending on Pre Kindergarten,” last month, criticizing the Prince William County School Board for not providing enough of a pre K education program for its disadvantaged population.
Chairman Milt Johns felt the articles did not present the full picture and did not allow the members of the School Board an opportunity to share their perspectives with its readers. To remedy this, Johns sent a Letter to the Editor. As the Washington Post has not yet published that letter, Bristow Beat agreed to share it with our readership.
The following is Chairman Milt Johns Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post.
Please note that his comments are his own and do not represent the entirety of the Prince William County School Board, its individual members, nor the Prince William County school division and employees. Bristow Beat is publishing the letter as an opinion piece and takes no stance on the particular issue.
The Prince William County Public School Division is second to none in its concern for students and in recognizing that early education is critical to future success, especially for the disadvantaged.
Consequently, we implemented Division wide full-day Kindergarten long before many richer Virginia Districts. This serves as a great equalizer for ill-prepared disadvantaged students entering our system.
Regrettably, your [Washington Post] recent editorial used carefully chosen numbers–“its budget is nearly $1 billion,” and “would need to spend just $3.6 million” to falsely depict PWCS as unwilling to invest in Pre-K education.
Numbers you ignored paint a different picture.
Combined state and county funding allowed PWCS to spend an average of just $10,158 on each of its 85,000 students this year; Fairfax spent $13,472 and Loudoun, $11,638. The nearly $126 million in added funding needed to close the gap between PWCS per-pupil spending and Loudoun’s [per-pupil spending] could allow us to implement Pre-K many times over, and still have money for other urgent priorities, such as reducing class sizes and raising teacher pay.
Your editorial conveniently ignored more numbers.
The state budget currently proposes cutting millions more from anticipated funding. The county budget currently would reduce anticipated revenue for school by $8.7M. How should PWCS find “just $3.6 million” more following years of repeated cutbacks and an expected influx of more than two thousand new students annually? I challenge the Washington Post to donate half of that amount and I will lead an effort with the School board to apply those funds for pre-K in Prince William County.
Our schools understand the need to invest in our students, especially the disadvantaged. We begin by using inadequate funding to maintain existing programs and services, while dealing with explosive growth and rising costs.
“Miserly”or “disregard” for the needy do not describe PWCS. The situation with pre-K funding in Prince William County is more complicated than the editorial would suggest. The Washington Post and your readers should know the difference.
Milton C. Johns
© 2014, Stacy Shaw. All rights reserved.