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1999 Fall Bulletin

              How Good Is Your Community's High School?

The above chart lists all Fairfax County Public High Schools and their two most important measures of academic achievement:  SAT and Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) results.  The third column shows the average SAT score for 1999 seniors at each high school.  The fourth column shows the national percentile for that score.  (This is a number that the Fairfax County Public Schools does not publish.)  For example, the aver

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age SAT score for seniors at Langley High School was 1177 (400 is the minimum and 1600 is the maximum).  The 77th percentile means that the average senior at Langley scored higher than 77 percent of the 1,220,130 college-bound seniors who took the test nationally.  All Fairfax County high schools, except for the Thomas Jefferson school for gifted students, scored below the 80th percentile.  All but three are below the 70th percentile.

Starting two years ago, the Virginia Department of Education began administering tests that students must pass to graduate from high school.  In addition, for a school to be accredited, at least 70 percent of its students must pass every test the school administers.  The accreditation standards do not take effect until 2007.  There are eleven high school tests:

English (Reading Literature Research)
Algebra I
Algebra II

U.S. History
World History to 1000 AD
World History from 1000
Earth Science

Therefore, if students in a school fail only one test, the school will lose it accreditation.  Only one school, Thomas Jefferson, met the accreditation standard.  More than half the high schools failed four or more tests.

The table suggests that students at a school must score at about the 80th percentile or above on SATs in order to pass all the state SOL tests.  Critics say this proves that the state SOL tests are too difficult.  What is more likely is that scoring below the 80th percentile on SATs indicates a low standard of academic achievement.  The SAT percentiles of Fairfax County's lowest-performing high schools are close to the SAT national average.

By Arthur G. Purves

In This Issue . . .

How Good Is Your Community's High School? - - p.1

As We Went to Press. - - p.2

Kate Hanley's Vision For Fairfax County: Higher Taxes . - - p.3

Five Reasons To Vote Against The School
Bond Referendum. - - p. 4

Is a Baseball Stadium Good for Fairfax County?. - - p. 5

The High Cost of Moral Breakdown - - p. 6

More Money For Declining Performance - - p. 7

R-E-G-I-O-N  May Spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E For Fairfax County Taxpayers - - p. 8

Board of Supervisors Candidates Respond to FCTA-Sponsored Tax Survey - - p. 9

Odds and Ends - - p. 11

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Reminder:  Vote NO! on the bond referendum on Nov 2.  See page 4.


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means that when she raises taxes, she can say that she did not foresee it.

School budget soars
The school system precipitated the tax increase four years ago and may again. On November 14, 1995, exactly one week after the 1995 election, the Washington Post reported that Fairfax County Public Schools superintendent, Dr. Robert R. Spillane, needed a $150 million increase in the school budget.  This increase was almost three times the $54 million increase the county had budgeted.  It is significant that Dr. Spillane waited until just after the election to state his request.  If he had stated his estimate just two weeks earlier, the election results could have been quite different.

The current superintendent, Dr. Daniel A. Domenech, should state before this election how much of an increase he estimates will be needed for next year's school budget.

What voters can do
To prevent Chairman Hanley's next tax increase, voters can vote for Paul E. Gagnon  (Libertarian) or Arthur G. Purves (Independent), both of whom are members of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance.

In addition, voters can attend candidate forums sponsored by the League of Women Voters and quiz the candidates about their stand on taxes.

The only forum that will have a debate between the candidates for Chairman of the Board of Supervisors will be held at Mantua Elementary School, 9107 Horner Ct., Fairfax, VA 22031 on Thursday, October 21 at 7:30 PM.

Two other forums where candidates will make statements and have a few minutes for questions are: 

October 9 - 10:00 AM at Greenspring Village Town Center Potomac Caf» 7440 Spring Village Drive Springfield, VA 22150

October 14  - 7:00 PM at Sherwood Hall Regional Library Community Room 2501 Sherwood Hall

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The High Cost of Moral Breakdown

This newsletter has previously reported that most tax increases in county spending have been spent on public safety and social services instead of transportation.

One example of increasing social spending is the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, which adjudicates "÷juvenile matters, offenses committed by adults against juveniles, and family matters, except divorce."

The accompanying graphs are taken from the court's 1997 Annual Statistical Report.  The top chart shows that while the county's juvenile population is less than it was in 1977, complaints about juveniles have increased over 50 percent.  The juvenile population is the public school enrollment in September of all children in grades 5-12, except for 5th an 6th graders in special education.  The bottom chart shows that the court's docketed transactions have increased twice as fast as population since 1977.

It is difficult to track the cost growth of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court because its budget is split between the state and the county.

The cause of the alarming trends in these charts is well summarized in the Annie E. Casey Foundation's 1995 "Kids Count Data Book", p. 7:

"Children in father-absent families are five times more likely to be poor and about ten times more likely to be extremely poor. Children of single mothers are twice as likely to drop out of high school and significantly more likely to end up in foster or group care and in juvenile justice facilities.  Girls from single-parent families have a threefold greater risk of bearing children as unwed teenagers.  And boys whose fathers are absent face a much higher probability of growing up unemployed, incarcerated, and uninvolved with their own children."

By Arthur G. Purves

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Most Candidates Pledge To Oppose New And Increased Taxes; Most Incumbents  Duck The Hard Questions

As reported in our last newsletter, taxpayers should be wary of an increase in Fairfax County real estate taxes in 2000.  Historically, every real estate tax rate increase since 1965 has occurred in a post-election year. The Board of Supervisors has raised the real estate tax rate in 50% of the post-election years since 1968, and those increases (when combined with increased assessments) have resulted in higher tax bills for the average homeowner in post-election years.  In the most recent post-election year (1996), a majority of the supervisors voted for a seven cent ($.07) per $100 valuation increase in the real estate tax, to the current level of $1.23.  That increase resulted in a fiscal year 1997 budget surplus of $26 million.  This track record, when combined with recent talk of new and increased taxes to fund new spending projects in Northern Virginia, makes taxes a central issue in this year's election.

Accordingly, the FCTA prepared a questionnaire directed to all candidates for the Board of Supervisors.  The purpose of the questionnaire was to obtain a clear statement of each candidate's position on tax increases in 2000.  The questionnaire invited the candidates to make a general statement concerning taxation and spending issues in Fairfax County.  Specifically, we also asked the candidates the following questions:

If elected, will you oppose:

  An increase in the Fairfax County real estate tax rate?
  An increase in the sales tax for Fairfax County?
  A piggy-back local income tax?
  Creation of other new taxes for Fairfax County?

The participation rate by the Board of Supervisors candidates, particularly incumbents, was disappointing.  Apparently, those candidates that did not respond felt it was not to their political benefit to go on the record concerning these important issues.  Numerous candidates do want their positions to be publicized to the voters, however, and we offer a summary of their views below.

Paul E. Gagnon (I) (Candidate for Chairman)

Mr. Gagnon states that if elected, he will oppose any increase in the real estate or sales tax rates, and the creation of a piggy-back local income tax or any other new taxes for Fairfax County.

Bob Jones (R) (Candidate for Lee District)

Mr. Jones states that if elected, he will oppose any increase in the real estate or sales tax rates, and the creation of a piggy-back local income tax or any other new taxes for Fairfax County.

He also states, "I do not support any new taxes or fee increases.  We have enough money to get the job done.  Anyone that conducts business in Fairfax County knows that there is a lot of room for improvement in the area of efficiency.  Taxpayers must live within their means and Fairfax County should do the same."

Dana Kauffman (D) (Candidate for Lee District)

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The Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance Newsletter, Spring 2000. Page 12

Have You Renewed Your Membership for this year?

Please check your newsletter mailing label to deterimine your membership expiration date (monrh/day/year)

The Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance seeks to influence County and State legislators to lower taxes, borrowing and spending to the level necessary to efficiently support the proper functions of local county government, and supports citizen participation in government through initiative, referendum and recall. We testify at public hearings, write citizens' committees, disseminate voting records of elected officials, write 'op-ed' articles and letters to newspaper editors, provide speakers to citizens groups and analyze and disseminate information on budgets, taxes and borrowing.

To successfully discharge our duties we need volunteers and dues-paying members. If you would like to contribute your time or money to further our efforts, we would like to hear from you. Please take the time now to fill out and send in your membership renewal or other form along with your dues and/or contribution. We would like to thank you for your past and continued support.

  Click on your choice to go to a form you can print out and send to FCTA:

_____ Renew my membership in FCTA (dues $15)

_____ Enroll me as a member of the Taxpayers Alliance (dues $15)

_____ I would like a call to learn more about volunteering.

_____ I would like to give a monetary gift to help FCTA

_____ I would like to give a gift membership to someone