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Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 08/31/2010

Va. schools: Band-aids on the Titanic

By Paige Winfield Cunningham

Virginia schools are putting band-aids on the Titanic.

That was the metaphor used by Kitty Boitnott, president of the Virginia Education Association, when we spoke last week about using one-time federal dollars to postpone teacher layoffs.

After last year's stimulus package sent $1.1 billion to Virginia schools, many districts used their portion to fund teacher salaries. Fairfax saved 356 positions using federal funds. Arlington, 23. And Prince William used 80 percent of its award to pay teachers. Now, another $249.5 million is likely coming their way now that Congress has approved the $10 billion Education Jobs Fund.

But what happens after the money runs out? The one-time dollars will in all likelihood run dry before the economy recovers enough to boost school funding (largely property taxes) back to sustainable levels.

What then? Boitnott doesn't know. Schools are making it up as they go along, she says. Schools aren't businesses, she adds, and shouldn't be regarded as such -- they work for children, not for profit margins.

If that's the attitude of district officials, they may face a harsh reality next year when the artificial environment created by temporary cash infusions crumbles around them. Sure, it's great that students aren't losing as many teachers this year as they would have otherwise. But districts should be careful that they're not using one-time funds as an excuse to avoid the reality that is this economic recession.

Paige Winfield Cunningham is an investigative reporter and managing editor at Old Dominion Watchdog. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Paige Winfield Cunningham  | August 31, 2010; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Local blog network, Virginia, schools  
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