2014-03-12 / Opinions


Teacher: Chesterfield schools are underfunded

As a teacher for 15 years in Chesterfield, it is clear that our underfunded schools are going in the wrong direction. But the situation can still be rectified by county leaders and the people who voted them into office. Unfortunately, some county leaders have adopted the position that we just have to live with sub-par education.

A few years ago, Bermuda Supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle responded to an email I sent her by stating, “Students will feel the effects [of budget cuts]. Fortunately, children are resilient.”

Ms. Jaeckle’s recent comments in the press indicate that she still holds this misguided view. No, Ms. Jaeckle, many of our children are not resilient enough to overcome the hurdles that adults have placed in front of them in the past few years.

Parents, will your child be resilient enough to overcome the disadvantages of education in an underfunded system? Is your child the one who will lack the resiliency to overcome failing to learn long division in a fourth-grade class bursting at the seams with 32 students? Is your child the one who will lack the resiliency to succeed in college because teachers have had to cut back on essay instruction to cope with class sizes? Is your child the one who wasn’t resilient enough to learn French because French 1, 2, and 3 have been combined into the same class?

Teachers see the effects of these cuts on students every day. Recently, I was looking over an assignment that I had given students to help them practice a particularly difficult skill associated with essay writing. This is the type of analytical skill that will help students in whatever they do in the real world; the type of skill that students need feedback on to improve. I knew that students would benefit if I graded the assignment and provided feedback for them, but I now have so many other obligations that I just didn’t have time.

Those in other professions probably know of an occasion when time prevented them from doing their jobs in the best way. It is a depressing experience when it happens once; for teachers it happens enough to become soul crushing. Teachers aren’t complaining about working hard; they are upset that all of their hard work isn’t enough to consistently provide what’s best for our students because of the budget cuts.

The fact that most parents throughout Chesterfield County have not taken action to mitigate the damage done to their children by the budget cuts indicates that they either are woefully uninformed about the way this is hurting their kids or that they actually support cuts even if they result in inferior schools. I’d like to believe that the former is true. The question is, Why haven’t county leaders educated our parents?

Supervisors, it is past time to help our schools. Students have only one chance at an education, and Chesterfield’s failure to take action to preserve education is robbing them of that chance.

Ryan Abbott

Supervisor Jaeckle responds: “In correspondence with the letter writer in 2010, I made the case for not increasing taxes to fund the school budget. I laid out many examples of what the rest of the citizens were enduring during the height of the recession. In that same letter, I also suggested ‘suspending all capital projects and increased technology in favor of teacher support.’ I agreed there would be effects across the county, including on the students, but felt that children were resilient and that as the financial picture became better we could add back what was needed. I felt confident that they would graduate with a solid education. The country was in a deep recession, everybody was making sacrifices.

“It is unfortunate that the public only reads snippets of meetings instead of seeing everything in context. As a member of the School Board Liaison Committee, I am a very strong advocate of restoring school funding, especially in the area of electives. I have often said students have only one chance at an education. I have also said that Chesterfield was a leader in the region as far as electives and now we are rapidly becoming just an ordinary school system. I have been unable to find any recent comment of mine in the press or anywhere else that supports the letter writer’s statement that I have adopted the position that we just have to live with sub-par education. I strongly believe we should offer solid elective programs and support the teacher in the classroom, even if that means cuts or delays in other areas such as capital expenditures or technology inserts.

“As a public servant, one recognizes that it is impossible to agree with all of your citizens all of the time. However, I do believe the writer of the letter took one comment from more than four years ago out of context and failed to adequately capture my support for schools over the years, particularly for the teacher in the classroom. My budgetary priorities for schools have always been to support a robust electives program and reducing class size.”

Unqualified candidate

Since I am quoted in the article, I thought I should tell you exactly why Mike Dickinson will not be the Democratic nominee to run against Eric Cantor. Before I told him that I was personally offended by his suggestion that he could be in favor of equal rights for women and have any association with a strip club, I recalled our hard work for Wayne Powell’s campaign. I learned that the ideal candidate to run against Cantor would have political experience, name recognition, money and the support of the party.

This is not the first time he has misrepresented exactly what was said at that meeting. He is not trustworthy, and that may be the biggest strike against him. I also asked him why he didn’t include his association with the strip club in his business experience if he thought that was OK. Why did he feel the need to hide it?

Candace Graham
Treasurer, Chesterfield Democratic Committee

Conflict of interest

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m the dumbest guy in the county. We have a budget shortfall, there’s a discussion about raising taxes, which I personally have no problem with, and we’re still talking about reducing or changing proffers? Of course, according to Bermuda School Board representative Carrie Coyner, the proffer system is now broken. And in order to incentivize new development in older communities, we must reduce or eliminate proffers.

Let’s just table all the arguments about how development in the western part of the county is sucking the life out of development in the eastern part and give Ms Coyner a red pencil – and a Chesterfield County map – and just let her outline those areas where her clients, now and in the future, want to develop.

Please, maybe there is no legal “conflict of interest” in her representing clients that will profit from eliminating proffers and her position on the School Board representing clients that will profit frokeeping them. However, I can certainly see where people could consider this a little disingenuous. By now, everyone knows that Ms. Coyner missed a good part of the last School Board meeting to attend all of the Planning Commission meeting. I wonder what the incentive was to pick one over the other. Then again, I did say I was the dumbest guy in the county .

Bill Fagan

Gay marriage forsakes God

Regarding your article “The End of Their Rainbow” [Feb. 19] on the gay marriage ruling: just because we have the right doesn’t make it right. Where is the line drawn in a society that states “we have a right?” Or is there a line drawn?

Why do we stop at just one partner? Why not have several wives? Some groups believe they have this right. So where does a society decide to stop, if it stops at all?

Do our government and the courts decide? After all, “In Government We Trust.” There was no victory gained in this case – only a counterfeit victory. A country that turns away from God as its moral compass will fail, will suffer and will be weakened. We have always had a portion of society who has rejected God. No one is forced to be a Christian. But when our government continues to reject God or change God to fit its desires, we have crossed a line that impacts us all.

My heart breaks for America. Not because I hate, but because I love. I love this country and its people. It breaks over the misuse of laws that men gave their lives for many years ago in order to see that slaves were free. The irony of it all? In our pursuits for freedom, we have become enslaved. God have mercy on us all.

Beth Mitten

Financial institutions are different

This is in response to your article entitled “To tax, or not to tax” [Feb. 19]. As the chief executive of a local credit union, I have trouble understanding why the tax issue keeps coming from the banking advocates as the unfair advantage.

During my career, I have been privileged to work for a bank, a savings and loan association, and finally a credit union. I don’t have any trouble understanding the purpose and niche for each type of financial institution. Yes, we may all provide many of the same products and services, but the missions and visions are different. The cooperative principles of credit unions represent many of the original roots of all financial institutions. During the evolutionary processes of institutions, many of the banks have chosen the stock ownership charter resulting in the liability of paying taxes. Capital can be raised by issuing stock, and its missions and visions can be fulfilled through additional capital.

Credit unions, on the other hand, can only raise capital through net income, which, if taxed, would diminish the ability to offer the products and services to its members. In reality, there is no threat to either side regarding taxes. I have documents from someone that borrowed $1,000 for Christmas expenses at a large local community bank with a 12- month repayment. The borrower had an extremely high credit score but was charged 41.657 percent APR. I think this transaction certainly accounted for any profits the bank wanted, as well as any taxes. By the way, this borrower was a stockholder in the bank. At any credit union, the regulatory maximum is capped at 18 percent APR; however with the credit credentials of this borrower, the rate would have been less than 10 percent at just about any credit union.

If the bank doesn’t apologize for its lending costs and charges sufficient to cover any tax liability, then I don’t see why they are so anxious to influence the practices of a financial cooperative. At the credit union, each member is a shareholder, and they don’t have to purchase additional shares to get the deal offered by my friend’s community bank.

Roger B. Ball

Letters can be emailed to, mailed to P.O. Box 1616, Midlothian, VA 23113, or faxed to 744-3269. Letters should include the writer’s phone number and home address, but neither will be printed. All letters should be limited to less than 500 words and may be edited for clarity or space. For complete guidelines, visit and click on resources, and then letters policy.

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