Dems Address “The Future of Education” in Panel Discussion with County Educators

| April 16, 2012 | 0 Comments | News


Young Democrat, Michael Futrell, enlives the room with his closing statements. (Panel L-R: Webb, Ruper Scheffel, Provenzano and Sawyers.)

Democrats showed their support for local educators at the Future of Education in Prince William County discussion panel, sponsored by the Prince William Young Democrats. The panel was held at the City Tavern in Old Town Manassas on Sunday, April 15 from 6-8 p.m.

The panel featured members who have played a prominent role in the teachers’ Work to Rule movement and/or lobbying elected officials for a step-increase for educators:

  • Babur Lateef,-D Former Candidate for Prince William County Chair
  • Myra Sawyers-D, Former Candidate for PWC School Board Chair
  • Bonnie Klakowicz, Outgoing President of the PWEA
  • Brandie Provanzano, Teacher Solidarity Leader
  • Holley Ruper Scheffel, Teacher Solidarity Leaders
  • Cydny A. Neville, Selected Community Representative.

Erine Porta, Mayor of Occoquan (D), served as the moderator. Young Democrats: Justin Wilk and Michael Futrell, gave the opening and closing statements, respectively. State Senator (D) George Barker was also in attendance to make a statement and answer questions from the audience.

Ruper Scheffel’s son, Trevor Webb, a Prince William County sixth grade student, also gave a speech on the sacrifices he and his family have made, since his mom became a Prince William County teacher.

For the educators Provenzano said, it is not just about money, but about feeling respected.

Trevor Webb explains how his mother works late helping other students after school.

“Teaching has gone from being one of the most noble profession to being demonized by the people who make laws in Prince William County,” said Young Democrat and civics teacher, Justin Wilk.

“First and foremost we’ve started the conversation. We’ve got to change the conversation,” said Futrell. “The average person doesn’t know a whole lot about politics. They understand talking points.”

The panel continually urged citizens to get involved in their community issues. Ruper Scheffel said all citizens should attend School Board meeting, BOCS meetings join their PTOs and enter into dialogue with teachers. Lateef said educators, who were not members of the PWEA, should be ashamed of themselves.

Provanzo explained her experience in becoming politicially involved was eye opening.

“In my naïve perspective the School Board members were just people who care about kids and teachers and education.”

When asked if she thought the 7.5-hour workday was a retaliation for the Work to Rule mandate, Provenzano quoted from a comment thread Milt Johns had made on the PWC Education Reform web article, “PWCS Teachers Threaten to Work to the Rule,” which read:

“In the wake of the “work to rule” protest, I may be more inclined to consider matching our contract length to surrounding jurisdictions if we do find funds for raises.”

However Provenzano praised Sawyers and Porta for actively supporting educators, saying she and some of her fellow educators had previously felt as though they had no allies in the political arena.

The panel also discussed the need to bring in additional funding for the schools. In response to a question on how a lower tax rate could affect Prince William County Schools, Lateef answers that the tax rate needs to be adjusted not just for inflation, but for growth in the county. He said if elected he would raise taxes to fund education.

Myra Sawyer discusses her dedication to bring STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs to the county.L-R: Sawyers, Porta, Webb, Rupert Scheffel and Provenzano.

“We have the highest class sizes in the region, pay the teachers the least, and have the lowest freaking tax rate in the region,” Lateef said.

However while this may be true in the past years, Fairfax and Arlington counties recently announced tax rates lower than that of Prince William’s advertised rate. However Prince William’s  final tax rate could be adopted at a lower rate than advertised.

Democrats, like Lateef do not want this to happen as they believe it will provide insufficient funding for education.

“Corey Stewarts wants to run for Lt Governor. He has to look like a guy who is lowering taxes,” said Lateef. “Our elected officials do not care about education; they only care about getting reelected.”

While Republicans elected officials  were not present to defend themselves, community member Tracy Conroy questioned the panel as to why Prince William property taxes for FY13 will be higher than neighboring counties.

“Three years ago, I knew nothing (about the School Board). I got involved in a boundary committee (issue), and I saw what you are seeing now.  I can navigate through our ( website now. You cannot find the information. It only took three years to learn. They advertised the tax rate of 1.215. Why can’t we balance the budget with the advertised tax rate or even less?”

Panel members pointed to a lack of commerce in the county from which to draw additional funds.

Mayor Porta said he was influenced by the how the Pennsylvania NEA helped support his teachers, when he was growing up in PA.

Conroy told the panel that when she asks for transparency, she does not get answers from elected officials on the BOCS or School Board. She also encouraged attendees to pay attention to the Capital Improvement Plan.

Senator Barker also spoke in support of education, and answered questions about the Kings Dominion Law.

The Young Democrats, consist of Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park Democrats ages 18-35, although, Futrell said any interested citizens is welcome to get involved.

The Obama For America office has opened in Tackets Mill, Lake Ridge, and Democrats are currently looking for volunteers.





© 2012, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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