New Falls Church Home Buyer Here for Schools
I must respectfully disagree with Ms. Karen Jones, who, in her letter to the editor last week, suggested a merging of the Falls Church schools with either Arlington or Fairfax to achieve an “economy of scale.”
I just put a contract on a house in Falls Church City this week. I currently live in Fairfax County; we looked into the possibility of living in Arlington. The only -and I cannot stress this enough- only reason we are buying in the City is so that my two kids can go to the 800-student George Mason High School. Why would I go to the expense and hassle of moving so they could go to yet another 2,000-plus-student-monster school (monster referring to the school, of course, not the students)? Every single high school in the metro D.C. area is at least twice the size of Mason; this is not the kind of economy of scale that I find advantageous.
Falls Church is 2.2 square miles. It is small. It has a small police force, a small city administration, a small library program, a small park and recreation, all of which could benefit financially from economies of scale. I do sympathize with the frustration of Ms. Jones and others with the tax situation, and I think something does have to give at some point. That said, I think most people move to FCC because of the lack of economy of scale–not in spite of it. Merging with larger districts is just not the answer I think we’re looking for. While from a strict financial stand point this might not make sense, if you value economy of scale, F.C. City is probably not the best place to be.
F.C. Remains Way Behind in Affordable Housing
Although congratulations are in order following last month’s vote by the City Council to approve the Wilden Affordable Housing Project for seniors, Falls Church has a long way to go on the affordable housing front.
It is an embarrassment that, up until now, no actual affordable housing projects have been implemented since the launch of the Falls Church Housing Corporation 10 years ago. We lag far behind our neighboring localities in initiatives to promote affordable housing for older adults, people with disabilities, and single parents. Alexandria, Fairfax, and Arlington have achieved notable success in this area, and for a city that touts itself as forward-thinking, Falls Church should be ashamed of its snail’s pace. Progress has been bogged down in rhetoric and outright snobbery, with the City Council rejecting numerous proposals to develop and re-zone housing geared toward low- and moderate-income families.
Of course, Falls Church was not immune to the housing bust that is responsible for the current state of our economy. Our foresight in erecting several new condominium buildings has backfired and now we need ways to recoup our investment. As it stands, the beautiful, new buildings along the Broad Street corridor are full of unsold units. As we seek to attract greater commercial density and additional sources of revenue to offset the recent 17 cent tax hike, why not make up for missed economic opportunities by converting a good portion of those empty buildings to affordable housing units?
Given the critical shortage of housing units in this region, Falls Church should capitalize on its central location and polish its reputation as a progressive city by filling that gap with its ready-made inventory. And history bears the pattern out that where people go, businesses follow. Everyone wins.
T. Davenport Grant
‘Pay to Play’ Widens Gap Between Races
It’s bad enough that Fairfax County Public Schools’ Superintendent Jack Dale has proposed the idea that high school students must pay money to play a sport, but it is equally amazing that his budget proposes that students must pay to take Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes.
To be precise, his budget will require students to pay to take the tests associated with these classes but without the test, the student is robbed of the some of the most important benefits of the class. Additionally, both School Board policy and the IB organization require the tests.
That the wealthiest county in the United States would discriminate between the well-off families who can afford for their children to play a sport and take tests and the middle and lower income families who cannot is inimical to the very concept of non-discriminatory equal public education – perhaps the most central tenet of American education. The proposed means testing of the application of these fees will not work.
Dale’s proposed budget will deny our teachers any type of a raise for the second year in a row but further balances the budget on the backs of children whose families will be forced to choose between a superior education (AP and IB classes) and sports versus other basic family needs. The draft school budget proposes that students will pay $100 per each sport they participate in and $75 for each AP or IB test they take. There is ample evidence that participating in sports is extremely beneficial for our students. Sports teach leadership, discipline, teamwork and respect for authority. Students who play sports do better in school than those who do not and there are obvious health benefits associated with sports. One of the best ways to keep our children out of gangs is to provide them the opportunity to play sports.
While the School Board bemoans the so called achievement gap between races, the concept of charging AP and IB fees to students who can’t afford it will guarantee that this gap widens.
Major Gains Made Vs. Use of Plastic Bags
Congressman Moran’s Earth Day commentary “Reduce Plastic &Paper Bag Waste” raises important issues – reducing waste, increasing recycling, and protecting our marine environment. And we agree that education and partnerships on the use of reusable bags and increasing plastic bag recycling both have an important role to play. But discussion of these issues would be better served with less hyperbole and use of accurate data on recycling.
The truth is that nationwide, the recycling of plastic bags and wraps reached 832 million pounds in 2008, an increase of 28 percent since 2005. And according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data, the rate of recycling these plastic bags and wraps doubled to 13 percent during the same period. Studies show that 92 percent of Americans reuse their plastic bags for lunch totes, wastebasket liners and pet pick up. Those numbers will continue to grow if we continue the nationwide trend of promoting a comprehensive reduce, reuse, and recycle approach.
In fact, policies like bans and taxes that target grocery bag use alone would derail bag and wrap recycling efforts and may eliminate the over 15,000 recycling drop-off locations in grocery and retail stores nationwide. Because most curbside programs don’t recycle bags and film, these grocery and retail drop-off locations are critical to recycling not only retail bags but also newspaper bags, dry-cleaning bags and wraps around hundreds of products we use every day like paper towels and beverage cases.
We all agree that plastics do not belong in the ocean; they belong in a recycling bin. When properly recycled, plastic bags and wraps go on to have a second life as backyard decks, playground equipment, shopping carts and new bags.
That’s why California, Delaware, Rhode Island, Austin, Chicago and New York City all have adopted bag recycling laws rather than bans and taxes. In fact, Maryland and Virginia rejected bag tax legislation this year. Let’s find ways to work together to keep the recycling numbers moving in the right direction – by increasing education and opportunities to recycle, in turn creating green jobs for a greener tomorrow.
Shari M. Jackson
Director, Progressive Bag Affiliates
American Chemistry Council
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