One hallmark of every budget season is the annual parade of members of public employee “associations” who cry out for higher government spending and higher tax bills. Usually this doesn’t merit much commentary, as the exercise never seems to actually change the outcome of budget discussions, and it’s not likely the never ending cries of doom from members of the Prince William Education Association will have any impact this time around. With no immediate end in sight to very tough economic times along with gas at $4 a gallon, rising food prices and the life savings of many residents starting to tap out, these cries for higher taxes start to become much more important. Those cries are rapidly becoming utterly enraging.
I was at Supervisor Candland’s budget town hall earlier this week and was pretty surprised to see several teachers, some even wearing shirts emblazoned with “PWEA” complain that anything but a huge tax hike would wreak disaster on the schools and make life impossible for teachers. I don’t imagine that Supervisor Candland was too thrilled with the PWEA using one of his town halls as an opportunity to lobby for tax hikes, but I was absolutely aghast. Our family is facing some really tough times and we’ve had to cut household spending to the point that health insurance has become one of those necessities we just have to do without (Obamacare hasn’t at all helped in this regard as the kind of affordable coverage I’d hoped to get is now illegal to offer). Yet teachers are complaining that they have to work an extra half hour to make up for the cost of contributions to their retirement accounts and a pay increase, and need more of my money to offset that hardship? To make it even more outrageous, one teacher who is a Fairfax County resident (and thus immune to the tax increases he advocated) went so far as to deliberately debate all the points private citizens had previously raised as if his job was to attack taxpayers rather than advocate for an issue. How surreal.
I’m sorry. I wish I could afford to pay teachers more, as I love what they do. My wife is a teacher who has taught in public schools in Virginia and I understand how hard it is for teachers when resources are limited. The problem is that I simply don’t have any more money to pay them with, and I’m hardly alone in this. Your concerns about whether it’s too much of a burden to contribute to your own retirement accounts has to be weighed against our concerns of how we can afford to eat this week and somehow manage to pay our mortgage next month, and frankly, contributions to your retirement account is going to lose in that equation.
That should be a pretty dispassionate discussion. It’s pretty simple, and there’s no hostility there. Well, at least there’s no hostility there until a bunch of teachers armed with inane talking points by the PWEA show up and accuse anyone saying they can’t pay higher taxes of being a heartless monster who hates teachers in a perfect reprise of Griff Hampshire’s public relations debacles. It was bad enough when PWEA trolls stunned everyone with comments that parents should be quiet about their children’s education because they’re not competent enough. Now we’re getting the line that we don’t appreciate or respect teachers because we’re not going to give them extra money we don’t have.
As has oft been said, our fiscal problems don’t arise here because we tax too little, but because we spend too much. Between the School Board’s utter refusal to consider that illegal immigration is a key reason why costs have exploded and will do nothing to address that in any way, and their lavish spending on such nonsense such as installing electronic billboards in front of county schools and providing subsidized lunches to administrative employees at the Kelley Center (including the county’s highest paid employee Dr. Walts) there’s a lot that could be done to resolve budget concerns simply by paying close attention to what the county is already spending. Millions of dollars spent on the utterly horrid “iStation” internet-based “learning” system, millions of dollars on the failed and non-state compliant “Math Investigations” curriculum, frequent seminars paid for with county taxpayer dollars featuring dubious speakers, the list here is nearly endless. There is utterly no fiscal discipline in the school system and until there is no sane person would ever throw more money at it in hopes things would ever get better. It will only get more expensive.
So when a bunch of teachers in PWEA shirts show up to wax poetic about how life would be so much better for us all if only our taxes were higher at the same time my youngest child’s quite reasonable request for a betta fish as a pet is something we can’t afford, I tend to get just a little upset. I’m sure that’s equally the case for folks in Heritage Hunt on fixed incomes, the large group of unemployed and under-employed workers in the county, and those getting hammered by fuel costs in their businesses and personal budgets whose credit card debt is exploding. We don’t need the lectures about how we’ll be better people if we agree to have our taxes raised. All we want to do is be able to figure out how to pay for food and housing this month, and pray some unexpected expense doesn’t pop up that doesn’t upset our delicate balance between survival and bankruptcy.
It would be a lot easier to show respect for county teachers as a whole if during budget season they weren’t demonstrating such callous disregard towards the plight of the people who are paying their salaries, funding their generous employee benefits, and already sacrificing to give them a better standard of living than many of us are able to now enjoy. When the economy has recovered and we’re not in such difficult financial straits, we’ll be happy to share a bit more of our wealth with you. That’s just not something many of us can do right now, and this kind of behavior only poisons the well you’re going to want to drink from when things get better.
The opinions expressed here are solely the views of the author, and not representative of the position of any organization, political party, doughnut shop, knitting guild, or waste recycling facility, but may be correctly attributed to the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. If anything in the above article has offended you, please click here to receive an immediate apology.
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