2014-04-23 / Opinions


Chesterfield needs to reinvest in schools, libraries

I discovered Chesterfield County while doing media consulting for DuPont. Everybody raved about the schools, so we moved here. Both our boys had ADHD, one diagnosed 99 percent more hyperactive than the average kid. Chesterfield Schools had awesome resources and my sons thrived.

Both went on to Virginia Tech and are prospering: one as a junior trader in New York City, another a computer engineer in San Francisco. But raising my ADHD daughter now is worrisome. Classes are bigger, teachers’ aides have been cut, and teachers’ workloads are stretched beyond what is fair or reasonable. Budget cuts threaten to harm programs for kids with special needs, though they can become productive citizens with the right support. If we don’t educate these kids, they become a burden on society later on.

Good schools also boost property values and are the No. 1 thing most parents look for when moving. Listening to citizens protest a modest tax increase to fund top-notch schools, I’m struck by how many are older citizens with kids up and gone. Why don’t these retired folks realize a generation before them funded a historically good Chesterfield school system, which benefited their children? So why are these empty-nesters now handing our kids a jalopy education?

Libraries are another quality-of-life issue relocating families consider. Funding for county libraries was cut $1.3 million in 2010. Thirty-eight staff members were cut, libraries (except for the Central Library) closed on Thursdays and the materials’ budget was cut by 30 percent. Students and job seekers use libraries for research, and small businesses use reference materials and databases.

Ride over to Midlothian Library. It is an embarrassment, especially if you compare it to Tuckahoe Library in Henrico. That’s a fair comparison because both are older libraries, surrounded by high-income earners. Midlothian’s library has a small, worn kids’ section rimmed by adults working on old computers. Adults who often snap at kids squealing over an exciting book.

Tuckahoe Library has an airy, modern design with more titles, sophisticated equipment, and a better inner-library-loan program. You walk through a fun tunnel to the children’s section, which has a wider variety of books. A few libraries in Chesterfield are being renovated, but Midlothian’s library (despite being surrounded by residents who are doctors and business executives) has no funds to renovate.

Overall, Henrico is updating older libraries throughout its system at a faster clip, and also supports an annual community-reading program

(All Henrico Reads). The program hosts noted authors and attracts overflow crowds. This county takes reading seriously.

Henrico, through its laptop program, saves millions on printed (not printing) textbooks, and kids learn how to navigate online research, which they must grasp to get into good colleges and build successful careers.

A decade later, Chesterfield residents are sill yelping about buying laptops for their students. Welcome to the Jalopy County.

Susan Ahern

Road improvements needed

Kudos to the Chesterfield Transportation Department for the road-improvement work last summer on Old Hundred Road. Unfortunately, those road improvements did not go far enough to encompass the intersection of Otterdale and Old Hundred roads.

It did, however, make a bad situation at this intersection even worse in that the turn lane from Old Hundred onto Otterdale was shortened and narrowed, thereby making it a more serious safety issue. It is so narrow that it is difficult for two opposing vehicles to make the turn at the same time, and vehicles routinely run off the pavement and make ruts in the shoulder of the road.

What supervisor and/or engineer designed and signed off on this change? Please bring attention to this horrible intersection, which has seen major use increase as the surrounding subdivisions have exploded.

Joyce Hardee

Teachers not entitled to better pay

I welcome the opportunity to respond to the various correspondents taking issue with my March 5 letter concerning teacher pay. Many teachers believe they are entitled to better pay packages than those in the private sector. We do not work 10 months out of the year, take in extra income during the summer, have most holidays off, a lifetime pension with free life insurance and health care benefits after we stop working. But we are expected to pay for teachers to have these benefits?

One writer (Bob Brown,

April 2) spoke of wanting “merit pay increases” more frequently than Chesterfield seems willing to pay. I doubt Brown seriously endorses true “merit pay.” I believe he desires annual increases in pay for simply surviving another year on the job. Indeed, teachers often resist any effort to measure performance and blame poor results on the parents.

One writer (Steven Bowman) said it was irrelevant and unfair to compare my experiences in the private sector with a public teacher. Accepting this premise, let’s look at teacher pay in the private sector where true supply-and-demand governs. According to the National Center for Education Statistics ( tables/dt13_ 211.10.asp), twice as many private sector teachers hold Ph.D.s, they make less money than their public sector counterparts, and they usually do not enjoy a guaranteed pension and other benefits after they quit working. How can private schools pay their teachers less money and provide less generous benefits, all while offering a product for which parents willingly spend thousands of dollars per year (in addition to the taxes they already pay to support public schools)? Using this private sector data, we should be talking about reducing public teacher pay and eliminating guaranteed lifetime pensions.

One writer (Renee Fernandez) made an observation that I did not criticize police, firefighters and soldiers. I note the tactic of Fernandez to lump herself in with people who literally put their lives on the line every day. I will agree to start criticizing the aforementioned groups if and when they start using our children as pawns while reminding us about how noble they are for choosing their profession. Teachers often opine about how they care about children even more than their own parents (as Fernandez did) or call parents “woefully uninformed,” as teacher Ryan Abbott did in his March 11 letter. When is the last time you heard a soldier or firefighter adopt this smug attitude toward the people paying his or her salary?

Often we hear teachers talk about better pay and reducing classroom sizes. Will teachers join me in supporting vouchers for parents? Rather than forcing parents to the school in their ZIP code, parents could vote with their dollars as to which schools should attract more money. Many teachers would have the added benefit of seeing classroom sizes dwindle overnight as parents select schools better suited for their children. This is a winwin solution but often this sort of approach is rejected by teachers. Why?

Clayton W. Rhoades

After gay marriage, what’s next?

Some believe the propaganda that gay marriage is about equality and fairness and that opponents are motivated by hate. Lesbian author and activist Masha Gessen said, “It’s a no-brainer that (homosexual activists) should have the right to marry, but I also think equally that it’s a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist. … (F)ighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there. … The institution of marriage is going to change, and it should change. And again, I don’t think it should exist.” (See YouTube, Lesbian Speaks Openly About Eradicating Marriage.)

And if you think that activists are going to stop with gay marriage, you are mistaken. They want marriage in order to make it easier to achieve the rest of their agenda. Look for forced curriculum beginning in kindergarten. Parents will have no say. More businesses will be sued. Say goodbye to freedom of speech and religion if you don’t comply.

Look up the 1972 Gay Rights Platform (Chicago). “Repeal all laws governing the age of sexual consent.” It turns out that it depends on who gets to define “equality” and “fairness.” Children are too young to advocate for themselves. It’s up to the rest of us.

Brenda Levy
North Chesterfield

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