Your View: Put school construction spending to a referendum

Your View: Put school construction spending to a referendum

By Jack Sullivan, Alexandria (File photo)

To the editor:
Last month, the Alexandria City School Board, led by chairwoman Karen Graf, laid a bombshell on the city. It passed a resolution requesting $611.1 million dollars for school infrastructure over the next 10 years — a 123 percent increase over the amount budgeted by city council for that purpose just last May.

Right now, we in Alexandria spend $17,008 per pupil per year to educate our children, which is among the highest in the state. Despite that, according to a respected national education group, our schools rank only 29th among Virginia jurisdictions. Arlington has a slightly higher per pupil cost but ranks at the very top. As another example, rural Goochland County annually spends $7,000 less per pupil than Alexandria yet its schools are ranked ninth.

Apparently unapologetic about the high cost and low ranking of our schools, now the school board asks for even more money. Some- thing definitely is wrong with this picture and it is about time the citizenry of Alexandria demand some answers. Are we spending our school money where it really counts — educating our kids?

I have suggested to city council that any request for additional school infrastructure funding be put to the voters in the form of a referendum next November. While the referendum would only be advisory and council still would need to vote on the issue, the results would provide guidance otherwise unavailable.

Just as important, it would require Graf, the school board and ACPS officials to provide the public with detailed information on how the money would be used and how it would help remediate the dismal comparative showing our schools are making in Virginia.