Friends and Readers,
This is personal.
It’s important to start off by making it very clear that in no way am I bashing the two schools that I have worked at for the past eight years. Quite the opposite, in fact. I love both of them dearly. That being said, they are becoming products of a broken system, as are the rest of the Fairfax County schools.
This Tuesday, Fairfax County voters will vote on the proposed meals tax for the county. To most voters, this might seem like an obvious vote- of course I don’t want to pay a tax on my meals. However, to anyone who is connected to education in Fairfax County, we know that this is a VERY important tax that we need to pass on Tuesday.
As a product of FCPS schools, I have a lot of pride and admiration for this school system. It has changed, though- and not for the better. When I was in high school at McLean High School, FCPS was often compared to the crème de la crème Texas school systems that are recognized across the country. When I was getting my degree in Elementary Education, I knew to apply to teach in FCPS very early on because you had to be invited to an exclusive early hire fair if you wanted any hope of getting a teaching job for the following school year. Fast forward eight years and the portrait of FCPS is much different now. We currently have over 200 vacancies in the county and they are begging people to attend the FCPS job fairs each spring. Every single year has brought new and difficult challenges from the top down. Until last year, teachers did not receive a step increase for seven years (!!!!!). In fact, even with our raise for the first time in so many years, when we crunched the math with our new insurance premiums it came out to a whopping TWENTY TWO DOLLARS more per month that we were making. Teachers are exhausted- mentally, physically, and financially. It is demeaning and hurtful to feel as though we are not valued in a job that we commit so many hours of our day to- both inside AND outside of our schools.
On top of teachers not being compensated appropriately, we’re failing in other areas too. Our retired teachers who substitute teach are now being paid the same amount of money as a normal substitute teacher, which is insane. Our classroom technology is lacking. Our class sizes are far too large. Our morale is down. Teachers are jumping ship left and right to head to nearby counties that compensate their teachers appropriately. The list goes on and on…..
I think what hurts the most is knowing the average portrait of the voter that’s going to potentially shoot this tax down- someone who lives in one of the wealthiest areas of the United States and can certainly afford a meal tax and yet does not support our children and teachers. Never mind, either, that every single surrounding county already has a meal tax in place that allows their school systems to continue thriving.
Maybe you’ve already heard about the meal tax and have made up your mind or maybe you haven’t. If nothing else, please educate yourself on this vote. For this teacher, it’s deeply personal. Your vote for the meals tax is a vote for our county’s children, our teachers, and our future. I fear that the fallout from a potential strike down of the this tax will simply spur yet another exodus of amazing educators to other close-by counties- an exodus that FCPS simply cannot afford. Pun intended.