By Jack Sullivan, Alexandria (File photo)
To the editor:
In her column in the November 3 edition of the Alexandria Times, Karen Graf, chairwoman of the Alexandria City School Board, asked for help from Alexandria residents to achieve a 10-year capital plan for schools, estimated to cost $515 million (“ACPS needs your help to ad- dress growing enrollment”). Unfortunately, just as Graf is requesting help, she seemingly is doing everything she can to alien- ate the very people she is asking.
Recently, for example, she flagrantly disregarded the community consensus on the expansion plans for Patrick Henry School, substituting her own plan at the last moment and steering it through the school board. It was as blatant a breach of trust as this town has seen in a long time.
She also has been part of an effort to sabotage the character of an advisory group formed by ordinance to provide adjacent neighbors with a voice on land-use issues at T.C. Williams High School.
Perhaps even more important has been her willingness to champion profligate spending on sports facilities, including a turf field at Francis C. Hammond Middle School costing more than $1 million, lighted tennis courts at T.C. Williams, and the proposed upgrade of the field at Parker-Gray Stadium.
The funds spent for those purposes might better have been put toward raising the quality of education for our kids.
The irony in Graf’s request is that although the school board sets its own budget, it is city council that must raise the taxes on all of us to pay for them.
Council can set a ceiling on spending, but it cannot dictate priorities. In effect, Graf is asking us to pressure council to approve this whopping increase in school spending, knowing that councilors will be the ones who must live with the fallout from taxpayers, and yet have no say in how the money is spent.
Right now, the demands on city finances are extraordinarily high. They include money required to meet sewer remediation, storm water control, Potomac Yard development, and Metro needs. In addition to those obligations, ACPS is asking for another $515 million.
The city manager and city council should not approve this request without rigorous scrutiny and a clear change in attitude by the school board and its chair toward the taxpaying public.