October 23, 2020
Dear County School Board and Board of Supervisors Members:
The members of the NAACP Culpeper Branch #7058 are concerned about the most recent efforts by our Board of Supervisors (BOS) and CCPS School Board to politicize the operations and funding of our public schools. Various members of the BOS seem to see the difficult decisions made by the School Board relative to the safe operation of schools during the pandemic as an opportunity to score political points by diverting county funding away from our public schools.
During the budget process last spring, the school system was asked to propose a minimal operational budget in part because the county was unsure of its ability to fund the schools and other essential services throughout the pandemic. This request was honored by the school system but the BOS shaved an additional $1.4 million from the proposal. Perhaps the motivation leading the county at the time was to consider how they would move forward if tax revenues dropped due to lower sales tax collections. However, only a few months later the county finds itself with no such sales tax deficit; in fact, revenues are ahead of last year. In spite of this, several supervisors have expressed a desire to reduce school funding not for the sake of our community, but for their own political gain.
If left unchecked, the BOS (with both the implicit and explicit consent of a majority of the CCPS School Board) would like to cripple the public school system to the point of only being able to provide the bare minimum Standards of Quality (SOQ) requirements mandated by the State. What would this type of funding and (by consequence) educational scenario mean for our children?
What is being haphazardly suggested by certain members of both the BOS and CCPS School Board flies in the face of both the professionals who have made it their life’s work to educate as well as our community members who have overwhelmingly made their choice in favor of the virtual learning model. This ill-advised course of action will cause the elimination of many popular educational programs that exceed the State’s minimum requirements. In addition, it will cause overcrowding of classes/school buildings inconsistent with CDC and VA guidelines. It may also inadvertently cause an exodus of great educators (educators who are both a part of our community and who commute to it). These valued professionals need not travel farther than a couple of counties over not only to make more money but to make that money in a safer and more supportive environment. This is not the quality of education nor the educational environment that the Culpeper NAACP wants for our students or for our community; nor is it the quality that you should afford said community and our students.
Nearly 60% of parents have opted to have their children attend virtual classes per the State and order of the Governor; it is also their right. It is the responsibility of the School Board to honor this request and the responsibility of the BOS to ensure the adequate funding of these initiatives. As a side note, it is also the responsibility of the School Board and BOS to follow all CDC and State Department of Health guidelines pertaining to COVID19 pandemic safety. We will not sit by passively as some School Board and BOS members push for a dangerous “herd immunity” strategy that is rooted in political doctrine more than science and data. In the words of William Hasseltine, President and Chair of ACCESS Health International, “Herd immunity is another word for mass murder.” Our community is highly susceptible to the virus and our economy, easily influenced by its effects on small businesses—we don’t have the time or resources, or people to waste.
In light of all of these concerns, we’d also wish to point out the lack of diversity on both the BOS and CCPS School Board. The abrupt and untimely resignation of Board Chair Michelle North leaves a vacuum in terms of steady leadership and we are asking that the process of filling the vacated seat include more of a concerted effort on the part of the BOS and CCPS School Board to reach out to an expanded pool of applicants. We wish for applicants who will provide more diverse and inclusive perspectives to augment the current board’s makeup. In order for the voices of the entire community to be heard, we must have a representative on the Board who understands both our background and ideals.
Culpeper NAACP Branch #7058