Open Forum: A council courageous

Posted: April 16, 2014

I have been a resident of Winchester for nearly 30 years and felt blessed to have a spirited and caring community in which to raise our three children.

Though the city has grown in that time, the community itself has still felt small. My children were well-educated and prepared for their college and working careers following the tradition of Judge Handley, who donated his largess to the “children of Winchester.” Maintaining a focus on education has long been a hallmark of both Winchester and the state of Virginia and is a part of our city’s persona.

My children are long out of school, but I feel it both a duty and privilege to pass on the same care and concern for those who are currently children as was provided for me and mine by fully supporting our schools. If this means an increase in my trash collection fees — and thank you to all those who diligently carry out this work — so be it.

I commend City Council for the hard choices being made to ensure that the quality of our schools is not sacrificed when cuts and unfunded mandates are passed on to localities.

For those who wish to attack the council for hard decisions, your ire and energy would be better directed at the forces that are reducing our schools to test-prep factories funneling local monies to test creators rather than the community.

Pearson, which provides testing in Virginia and brings in more than $9 billion annually, is a British multinational corporation. Much of that $9 billion comes from tax dollars provided by the likes of you and me. Administering and collecting the “data” from those tests have turned every public school employee into a hand servant for the industry and have required more staffing to support the administration of tests rather than classroom teachers who instruct.

When teachers have been both trained and educated to assess students in the classroom, this is an unnecessary expenditure that siphons dollars from our community. But this is what privatization looks like — taxpayer dollars spent to purchase products by outsiders who have little knowledge of our community or children.

If you want to be angry, I’d choose that as a focus. When the taxpayers realize how they have been duped into paying for a defective product while lining some faraway pocket, then local money will stay where it can do the most good — providing a quality teaching staff to serve our growing population and having those employees spend local dollars at home.

In the meantime, our City Council is taking the morally responsible action — making sure that a whole generation of students is not sacrificed to wrongheaded policy. I commend the council for taking courageous action by building a budget that reflects the moral stance of our community. Children in their critical formative years cannot wait for change.

Thank you for remembering that we cannot just be takers. We have to give as well. And what we can give is what we have already enjoyed — a strong, quality public education.

Mary Tedrow resides in Winchester.