Danville Workers Under Attack | Labor South

18 Nov
originally posted here.

The battle goes on for Ikea workers in Danville, and the world is watching

Workers at the Ikea-owned Swedwood plant in Danville, Va., are still struggling for their rights

Ikea founder and former Nazi sympathizer Ingvar Kamprad

against union-hostile supervisors despite workers’ 221-69 vote last July to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).

“Supervisors are targeting union supporters for discipline, violating workers’ rights to be represented by stewards, threatening and intimidating pro union workers, and making numerous unilateral changes which by the law must be bargained,” writes IAM official William V. Street Jr. in the latest issue of the London-based International Union Rights magazine.

The July vote was heralded as a major and rare victory for labor organizers in the U.S. South, a region whose business and political leaders have fought against labor rights since before the Civil War. The vote came after workers complained of stretch-out-like conditions on the assembly line that evoked images of 1930s textile companies, mandatory and unpaid overtime, eliminated raises, and racial prejudice. “In many ways, work conditions more akin to Dickens than Keynes,” writes Street, director of IAM’s Woodworkers’ Department.

In addition, workers in Danville were paid considerably less than Ikea workers in Sweden, whose minimum wage is $19 an hour with five weeks of paid vacation. Ikea workers in Danville start at $8 an hour and get 12 vacation days. In the fall of 2010, packing department workers saw their wages drop from $9.75 an hour to $8 an hour. This came despite a 6 percent-plus hike in company profits in 2010 and a $12 million incentives package from local and state governments to get Ikea to locate in Danville. The median wage in Danville is more than $15 an hour

Ikea calls itself a Swedish company but “is actually chartered in The Netherlands while controlled by a family trust in Luxemburg,” Street writes. It was founded in 1947 by former Nazi sympathizer Ingvar Kamprad, one of the world’s richest men whose personal wealth is estimated to be anywhere from $6 billion to many times that much.

When an organizing effort started in Danville, the company hired the union-busting Jackson Lewis law firm to help keep the union out.

All of this proved an embarrassment to a company that had touted its code of conduct recognizing workers’ rights to join a union.

It also inspired an international effort to support the Danville workers. IAM ran a sophisticated campaign that put the spotlight on Ikea back in Sweden, prompting extensive coverage in the Swedish media and producing countless phone calls and emails and picket lines as far away as Australia.

“The capacity of the IAM and the need to educate both EU (European Union) affiliates and US citizens as to the backward nature of US labour law all were part of the decision making process,” Street writes. “In the US, this discussion was characterized as the US becoming Sweden’s Mexico, meaning a place for global business to exploit lax laws in order to exploit both workers and the environment.”

Meanwhile, however, the battle goes on at the Danville plant. “The media has left, the story is over,” Street laments.

However, IAM is fighting back, and so is the international labor community, which sees the Danville situation as part of a bigger picture of neo-liberal economic policies being pushed globally by the United States and organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. These policies are hostile to unions as they push to increase corporate profits and work to inhibit government oversight. “Swedish union leaders are planning to visit Danville to see the fight for social justice first hand,” Street says, adding that university-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the U.S. are also planning boycotts if workers’ rights continue to be abused in Danville.

Ikea is a classic example of a modern-day “hollow” corporation that attempts to evade labor and environmental standards through the use of wholly owned subsidiaries like Swedwood and supplier companies, Street says.

A “hollow” company works something like this: It publicly pressures its subsidiaries and suppliers to be good corporate citizens and meet acceptable standards, but when they do, it proceeds to squeeze those same operations to lower their costs to the very minimum, ultimately forcing wages down and hurting working conditions.

It’s the same kind of hypocrisy Walmart has engaged in for years. Once again, the South is in the middle of a battle that stretches around the globe.


Sham Democracy: Virginia 2011 | Jon Liss

10 Nov

by Jon Liss

I remember growing up and learning about elections in the old Soviet Union.  I  never liked sham elections where candidates reeled in 90-99% of the vote or there weren’t real choices or the rules of who participates were rigged.  Well, the old Soviet Union is no more – but in elections that were supposed to be a national barometer for the 2012 elections 79 out of 140 Virginia state senate and house races where uncontested by one or the other dominant parties.  Even in the races that were contested only about a third of registered voters voted.  This lack of participation reflects a lack of ownership and a lack of hope.

This is by design.  Continue reading

Still Neither Fair Nor Accurate « Rethinking Schools Blog

27 Oct

Still Neither Fair Nor Accurate

October 6, 2011 by rethinkingschoolsblog

by Kris Collett

President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have another “reformy” idea.  Surprised?  No, me neither.

testing graphicIllustration: J.D. King

Now, in addition to using high-stakes standardized test scores to evaluate teachers and push merit pay schemes, they have a released a plan which will in part, use test scores to judge teacher preparation programs.

I guess it doesn’t matter to the administration that research has documented some serious problems with using high-stakes test scores to evaluate teachers.

Once again, politics trumps research.

Rethinking Schools editor Wayne Au summarized many of the problems with using tests and the buzz-y “value-added measurement (VAM)” in “Neither Fair Nor Accurate: Research-Based Reasons Why High-Stakes Tests Should Not Be Used to Evaluate Teachers,” from our Winter 2010 magazine issue.

Statistical error rates and year-to-year, as well as day-to-day test score instability top the list.

For example, he writes “there is a statistical error rate of 35 percent when using one year’s worth of test data to measure a teacher’s effectiveness, and an error rate of 25 percent when using data from three years.”

That means “there is a one-in-four chance that a teacher rated as ‘average’ could be incorrectly rated as ‘below average’ and face disciplinary measures.  Because of these error rates, a teacher’s performance evaluation may pivot on what amounts to a statistical roll of the dice.

And given that monetary incentives and rewards are built into the administration’s plan for evaluating teacher education programs, there’s a lot at stake.  The administration is literally gambling when they use high-stakes standardized test scores in their evaluation.

Wayne writes in his article,

“The shakiness of test-based VAM data illustrates that the current fight over teacher ‘accountability’ isn’t really about effectiveness. The more substantial public conversation we should be having about rising poverty, the racial resegregation of our schools, increasing unemployment, lack of health care, and the steady defunding of the public sector—all factors that have an overwhelming impact on students’ educational achievement—has been buried. Instead, teachers and their unions [and now teacher preparation programs] have become convenient scapegoats for our social, educational, and economic woes.”

Don’t get us wrong.  We ought to examine how these programs are preparing today’s teachers, and help them improve.  We’ll be the first in line to suggest a stronger emphasis on using anti-racist, multicultural curriculum, more deeply understanding students’ lives, and building community in the classroom.

But evaluating teachers and their preparation programs must be done in a “fair and accurate way,” writes Wayne. “Using high stakes standardized tests and VAM “to make such evaluations is neither.”

Read Wayne’s entire article here.

And watch for a new book from Rethinking Schools next Spring, Pencils Down: Rethinking High-Stakes Testing and Accountability in Public Education. Editors Wayne Au and Melissa Bollow Tempel are working hard on the project now!

This post represents the views of the author, and not necessarily those of Rethinking Schools.

Challenging Corporate School Reform and 10 Hopeful Signs of Resistance | Rethinking Schools Blog

25 Oct

Originally posted here.

Challenging Corporate School Reform and 10 Hopeful Signs of Resistance

On Oct. 1, 650 people attended the 4th annual Northwest Teachers for Social Justice conference in Seattle.  Rethinking Schools editor Stan Karp gave a well-received talk on “Challenging Corporate Ed Reform.” He ended on an uplifting note with “10 hopeful, tangible signs of organizing resistance and alternatives to the corporate reform agenda,” which you can read at the bottom of this post.

You can watch the entire speech here:

The following is an excerpt from that presentation:

“Corporate education reform” refers to a specific set of policy proposals currently driving education policy at the state and federal level.  These proposals include:

  • increased test-based evaluation of students, teachers, and schools of education.
  • elimination or weakening of tenure and seniority rights.
  • an end to pay for experience or advanced degrees.
  • closing schools deemed low performing and their replacement by publicly funded, but privately run charters.
  • replacing  governance by local school boards with various forms of mayoral and state takeover or private management.
  • vouchers and tax credit subsidies for private school tuition.
  • increases in class size, sometimes tied to the firing of 5-10% of the teaching staff.
  • implementation of common core standards and something called “college and career readiness” as a standard for high school graduation.

These proposals are being promoted by reams of foundation reports, well-funded think tanks, a proliferation of astroturf political groups, and canned legislation from the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Counsel (ALEC).

Together these strategies use the testing regime that is the main engine of corporate reform to extend the narrow standardization of curricula and scripted classroom practice that we’ve seen under NCLB, and to drill down even further into the fabric of schooling to transform the teaching profession and create a less experienced, less secure, less stable and less expensive professional staff.  Where NCLB used test scores to impose sanctions on schools and sometimes students (e.g., grade retention, diploma denial), test-based sanctions are increasingly targeted at teachers.

A larger corporate reform goal, in addition to changing the way schools and classrooms function, is reflected in the attacks on collective bargaining and teacher unions and in the permanent crisis of school funding across the country.  These policies undermine public education and facilitate its replacement by a market-based system that would do for schooling what the market has done for health care, housing, and employment: produce fabulous profits and opportunities for a few and unequal outcomes and access for the many.

The same corporate elites and politicians who accept no accountability for having created the most unequal distribution of wealth in the history of the planet—and an economy that threatens the health and well-being of hundreds of millions—want to hold teachers accountable for their students’ test scores.  They even want to use similar instruments to do it.

Standardized tests have been disguising class and race privilege as merit for decades. They’ve become the credit default swaps of the education world.  Few people understand how either really works.  Both encourage a focus on short-term gains over long-term goals.  And both drive bad behavior on the part of those in charge.  Yet these deeply flawed tests have become the primary policy instruments used to shrink public space, impose sanctions on teachers and close or punish schools. And if the corporate reformers have their way, their schemes to evaluate teachers and the schools of education they came from on the basis of yet another new generation of standardized tests, it will make the testing plague unleashed by NCLB pale by comparison.

Let’s look for a minute at what corporate reformers have actually achieved when it comes to addressing the real problems of public education:

First, they over-reached and chose the wrong target.  They didn’t go after funding inequity, poverty, reform faddism, consultant profiteering, massive teacher turnover, politicized bureaucratic management, or the overuse and misuse of testing.

Instead, they went after collective bargaining, teacher tenure, and seniority.  And they went after the universal public and democratic character of public schools.

Look again at the proposals the corporate reformers have made prominent features of school reform efforts in every state: rapid expansion of charters, closing low performing schools, more testing, elimination of tenure and seniority for teachers, and test-based teacher evaluation.  If every one of these policies were fully implemented in every state tomorrow, it would do absolutely nothing to close academic achievement gaps, increase high school graduation rates, or expand access to college.  There is no evidence tying any of these proposals to better outcomes for large numbers of kids over time.  The greatest gains in reducing gaps in achievement and opportunity have been made during periods when concentrated poverty has been dispersed through efforts at integration, or during economic growth for the black middle class and other communities, or where significant new investments in school funding have occurred.

Or take the issue of poverty.  Most teachers agree that poverty is no excuse for lousy schooling; much of our work is about proving that the potential of our students and communities can be fulfilled when their needs are met and the reality of their lives is reflected in our schools and classrooms.  But in the current reform debates, saying poverty isn’t an excuse has become an excuse for ignoring poverty.

Corporate reform plans being put forward do nothing to reduce the concentrations of 70/80/90% poverty that remain the central problem in urban education.  Instead, educational inequality has become the entry point for disruptive reform that increases instability throughout the system and creates new forms of collateral damage in our most vulnerable communities.

The “disruptive reform” that corporate reformers claim is necessary to shake up the status quo is increasing pressure on 5,000 schools serving the poorest communities at a time of unprecedented economic crisis and budget cutting.  The latest waiver bailout for NCLB announced recently by Sec. Duncan would actually ratchet up that pressure.  While it rolls back NCLB’s absurd adequate yearly progress system just as it was about to self-destruct, the new guidelines require states that apply for waivers to identify up to 15% of their schools with the lowest scores for unproven “turnaround” interventions, “charterization,” or closing.

Teachers and schools, who in many cases are day to day the strongest advocates and most stable support system struggling youth have, are instead being scapegoated for a society that is failing our children.  At the same time, corporate reformers are giving parents triggers to blow up the schools they have, but little say and no guarantees about what will replace them.

The only thing corporate ed reform policies have done successfully is bring the anti-labor politics of class warfare to public schools. By overreaching, demonizing teachers and unions, and sharply polarizing the education debate, corporate reform has undermined serious efforts to improve schools.  It’s narrowed the common ground and eroded the broad public support a universal system of public education needs to survive.

For example, there is actually a lot of common ground on the need to improve teacher support and evaluation.  There’s widespread agreement among educators, parents, and administrators on the following suggestions for improvement:

  • better preparation and evaluation before new teachers get tenure (or leave the profession, as 50% do within 5 years).
  • reasonable, timely procedures for resolving tenure hearings when they are initiated.
  • a credible intervention process to remediate and if necessary remove ineffective teachers, tenured and non-tenured.

Good models for each of these ideas exist, many with strong teacher union support, but overreaching by corporate reformers has detached the issue of teacher quality from the conditions that produce it.  Their experiments are staffing our most challenging schools with novices or Teach for America temps on their way to other careers.  Corporate reform plans are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into data systems and tests designed to replace collaborative professional culture and experienced instructional leadership with a kind of psychometric astrology.  These data-driven formulas lack both statistical credibility and a basic understanding of the human motivations and relationships that make good schooling possible.  Instead of “elevating the profession,” corporate reform is downsizing and micromanaging it.

Right now, my home state of New Jersey is getting ready to implement a so-called “growth model” developed in Colorado, where they are now giving first graders multiple choice questions about Picasso paintings and using the results to decide the compensation level and job security of teachers.

This is not “accountability.”  It’s a high-tech form of Taylorism, industrial era management-by-stop-watch-and-efficiency-expert-with-a-now-computerized clipboard.  It’s what happens when people who’ve never taught in classrooms organize/control them.

One of the most dishonest framings that’s become a favorite of the corporate crowd is to counterpose the interests of “adults” vs. the “children.”  This rhetoric righteously pits the interests of teachers and their unions against those of children, and there are certainly times when those interests diverge and when teachers’ unions have not defended the interests of the families and communities we serve.  But this same rhetoric never questions the adult motives of the hedge fund privateers, consultants, private foundations, pundits, or politicians who are suddenly the champions of the poor.  Only in the US corporate media culture could a campaign of billionaires to privatize and dismantle what’s probably the most inclusive democratic institution we have left be dressed up as a selfless campaign for civil rights.

Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of the corporate reform movement is the way it has attached its agenda to the urgent needs of poor communities of color who have been badly served by the current system.  The corporate reformers have successfully used deeply rooted inequalities in our society to construct a misleading narrative of failure and introduce market reform into public education.  But because they’ve also overreached and promised results and choices they cannot deliver, we need to turn their accountability rhetoric back on them.  We need to demand evidence that their market reform policies produce better outcomes for the majority of kids, and when they can’t, we need to use the absence of that evidence to press for the limitation or reversal of the “disruptive reforms” they seek.  And when their policies fail in one place, we need to share those results in their next target.

It’s important to remember that corporate reform rests on fundamentally false premises.  Corporate reformers do not represent the interests of poor communities of color or, for that matter, working or middle class communities.  And test-based reform, which is now the status quo in public education and has been for sometime, has been a colossal failure on its own test-score terms.

And because reality still counts—despite the bizarre Wizard of Oz-like character of our media and political systems—corporate reform rests on a very weak foundation of false claims and failed policies.  For all its deep pockets and political influence, it’s a movement that has absolutely no way to deliver on its promises of better education for all, and particularly for our poorest and most vulnerable schools and communities.

So let me end by offering a quick survey of 10 hopeful, tangible signs of organizing resistance and alternatives to the corporate reform agenda.  In no particular order:

  1. I’ve already mentioned Parents Across America which has linked experienced parent activists from Seattle to Chicago to New Orleans to New York, Florida and elsewhere into a growing parent voice for better policies. The landscape is different is every city, but there is no more crucial work than building an alliance between parents and teachers to defend and improve public education. Even a small group of activists representing teachers, parents, and progressive academics can have a big influence on local reform debates if they work together. If you haven’t connected to PAA already, do it.
  2. The outpouring of critical response to Waiting for Superman last fall was when a lot of teachers discovered they were not alone. Rethinking Schools’ NOT Waiting for Superman campaign drew tens of thousands of supportive responses and has created an archive of information and resources for countering corporate reform that’s still growing. In NYC, the GEM produced a documentary response to the film entitled The Inconvenient Truths Behind Waiting for Superman that’s served as a rallying point for organizing and discussion across the country.
  3. The two large teacher unions, the AFT & the NEA, have had mostly weak and defensive responses to the policy attacks of the past few years. But they are being pressed by both their members and by reality to develop more effective responses. This includes on the ground efforts at reform and the election of activist teacher leaders like Karen Lewis in Chicago and Bob Peterson in Milwaukee. Years of failing to effectively mobilize their membership or develop effective responses to school failure in poor communities have taken a big toll on the ability of our unions to lead the charge in defending public ed. But their role remains crucial and activists have begun to rebuild that power on the basis of new politics and new coalitions with the communities schools serve.
  4. The heroic Wisconsin rebellion. More than a month of sustained large scale protests and organizing that’s still targeting a recall effort for Gov. Scott Walker. Check out One WisconsinNow.org for the latest.
  5. In Ohio, outrage over another antilabor bill, SB#5 helped over generate 1.3 million signatures to put a referendum on the ballot and the measure may be repealed this November by popular vote.
  6. There’s a growing national movement  of parents and students to opt out of standardized testing. This effort has the potential to mobilize large numbers of parents and students in the fight against the testing plague. Check out Unitedoptout.com or Testing is Not Teaching.
  7. The growth of locally-based teacher activist groups. There are now active Teachers for Social Justice groups with various names in Chicago, SF, Milwaukee, Portland, NYC (where there are multiple groups), St. Louis, Atlanta, and NJ to name just the ones I can remember. If there’s one in your town, join it. If not start one.
  8. Education for Liberation is a national network of educators, youth and community activists, led by people of color, doing great work on school to prison pipeline, youth organizing, and other social justice issues. Their conference in Providence this summer was probably the biggest and most dynamic yet.
  9. The Save Our Schools march and conference last July reflected both the growth and the as yet unfulfilled potential of a national teachers voice in defense of public education and the teaching profession. Interestingly, the SOS project did not begin with radical political activists, but with impeccably well-credentialed national board certified teachers, who attempted to engage the Obama administration to discuss it’s education policies and who were stunned by the arrogance and ignorance of the response. A project that began with Anthony Cody’s Teachers Letters to Obama found itself pushed by the aggressive acceleration of corporate reform into a more political and activist response. The media offensive of last fall around WfS and the state by state battles last winter and Spring convinced many that a national mobilization was sorely needed. The well-credentialed, experienced teachers at the center of the project were able to attract a significant number of well-known, respected advocates for public education who threw their support behind the effort, including Ravitch, Jonathan Kozol, Linda Darling-Hammond, Pedro Noguera, Angela Valenzuela, Nancy-Carlsson Paige and others. Actor Matt Damon added media visibility and celebrity star power and Parents Across America broadened the project’s base and outreach, as did savvy use of social media.  The event had an impact far beyond the 8000 people who turned out for the rally, and while it remains to be seen whether SOS will be able to harvest what it started and sustain a national network, local and state groups are building on the grassroots energy that SOS helped set in motion.
  10. And finally there’s my own home base Rethinking Schools, which has somewhat miraculously survived to this year celebrate its 25th anniversary as a voice for activist educators. Rethinking Schools has always tried to connect efforts to create classrooms that are places of hope and humanity with larger struggles for racial and social justice. It made me a better teacher in the classroom and a better activist outside it. I don’t think it’s ever been more important to fight on both fronts and I thank you for letting me be part of that effort today.

Students’ Terror: Cops Moonlighting as Immigration Police

21 Oct

So many schools struggle to fulfill their core mission: to educate youth in this country and prepare them to fully participate in building a better future. They need more and better-trained teachers, and more resources to build better school buildings and equip classrooms. Yet, the reforms that some lawmakers pursue have far more to do with making schools unsafe for all its students and uniting corporate interests with the beliefs of the far right.

ColorLines Magazine presents a terrifying story, reposted here, about a school district in Colorado that is terrorizing students and families by inviting ICE agents to police its school corridors. As time passes and political rhetoric becomes ever-more hate-filled, stories like this seem normal. But it’s our duty and task to work for schools that keep our kids and families safe, and promote the kind of critical thinking that can answer the big questions that our current governing generations have failed to answer.

Originially posted here.

Colorado Town Debates Whether School Police Can Also Work for ICE

John Moore/Getty Images

by Julianne Hing

Friday, October 21 2011

What happens when the police officer who works at your high school also happens to moonlight as an immigration agent conducting raids in the neighborhood where you live? Latino middle and high school students in the small Colorado town of

Carbondale started reporting exactly this over a year ago, along with the fear that their school resource officer was using information he learned at school to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement pick up parents in the town.

Now, the school board for Carbondale’s Roaring Fork School District is considering a policy that would bar police officers from serving such dual roles.

“When it comes to immigration, mixing it with law enforcement is very problematic,” Continue reading

Unbalanced, Unequal and Undercut | The Commonwealth Institute

11 Oct

Originally posted here.

Highest Wage Earners Gained More in one Year than Lowest Wage Earners did in 30

Gap between highest and lowest wage earners now at 30-year high

RICHMOND, VA – The top 10 percent of wage earners now make at least 5.7 times more than Virginians in the bottom 10 percent. The wage gap between the highest and lowest paid workers in the state now stands at a 30-year, all-time high and is second only to New Jersey.  In addition, in just the first year of the recovery, workers earning in the top 10 percent experienced more real wage growth than workers in the bottom 10 percent experienced across the past 30 years.

These are among the key findings in a new report published today by The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, a Richmond-based fiscal and economic policy think tank, analyzing wages and income among Virginia workers over the past 30 years.

“What our report shows is that the recession has not hit everyone equally. In fact, while many have been hit hard, certain sectors and certain high wage earners have done pretty well,” says Michael Cassidy, President of The Commonwealth Institute. “In the end, our analysis shows that the impact of the recession has been to exacerbate long-term trends in wages and income creating a situation that is unbalanced, unequal and which has undercut hard working middle- and low-wage earning Virginians.”

Among the report’s additional key findings:

  • Median household income in Virginia held steady during the first year of the recovery at $60,674 in 2010.
  • Median individual wages increased to $17.83 an hour in 2010 — roughly 11 percent above the national average and the eighth highest of any state.
  • The uptick in median wages continues a trend that predates the recession. Since the start of the downturn in 2007, Virginia’s median wages have increased by about 5 percent in real terms. This is the fourth highest increase in the nation and compares to a national average of only about three-quarters of 1 percent.
  • The recession resulted in more dramatic swings in wages for Virginia’s working men than for its working women. At the low end of the wage distribution, men have seen a greater share of their wages disappear, while among the top 80 percent, they have experienced larger gains.
  • Virginia continues to reward college educated workers with substantially higher wages. In 2010, Virginia’s college-educated segment of the workforce earned nearly 12 percent more than the national average for college graduates.
  • Since the start of the recession, workers with less than a college degree have experienced sharp declines in real wages, while the wages of those with a college degree have grown by 6.8 percent.
  • Although real average weekly wages have been increasing across all industries in Virginia, employment levels have not. This has real implications for working Virginians. The state’s greatest job losses since the start of the recession have been concentrated in middle-wage industries such as Construction and Manufacturing.

“These imbalances represent major setbacks for large segments of working Virginia and create significant and growing distance between poverty and prosperity in the state,” says Cassidy. “The high concentration of job losses in mid-wage industries since the start of the recession presents real challenges for Virginia’s middle class workers and should be of top concern to policy makers as they work to expand this critical segment of Virginia’s economy.”

Sit-down with Senator David Marsden

21 Sep

Recently, we invited Senator David Marsden from Senate District 37 to chat with us about what he thinks Virginia can do to revive our economy and help Virginians find fairness and opportunity in the midst of so much economic uncertainty. This is what he had to say.

“Northern Virginia has been fortunate through these difficult economic times. Although, our unemployment rate is high it is below that of the rest of Virginia and the country. In the past 6 months I have visited with constituents from Bull Run the Lake Barcroft. What emerged is a keen awareness people have of the struggles waging on Capitol Hill contrasted with sound decision making and compromise that goes on in Richmond. Though, our bi-partisan efforts to cut spending have allowed Virginia to keep its AAA bond rating, it has not come without sacrifices and difficult decisions.

“Over the past 3 years we have cut close to 1 billion in school funding and my constituents understand the need to improve the state contribution to local education. Improving the investment in our schools is the best policy for our children, reduces pressure on local real estate taxes and insures people will continue to move to Fairfax County in search of the best school system. For many years people have been eager to live, work and invest in Fairfax County because the quality of our schools and the strength of our home values. When we invest in our public schools it encourages business to locate and expand in Fairfax and this will support higher home values which many of us count on to fund our children’s higher education and our own retirement.

“Another area of economic development crucial to our future is investment in our infrastructure. From updating our roads and bridges to replacing our water and sewer lines – it is a mark of successful societies when they look to the future as a way to solve the pressing problems of the moment. We can create jobs and economic activity by making these improvements that will lay the ground work for continued growth and development. We must be able to move people, goods and services expeditiously while making sure that water is used economically, sewage is disposed of safely and utilities such as gas and electricity will used in a manner allowing us to adequately meet our future needs. Obviously there is tremendous potential in alternative energy development such as wind solar and geothermal capacity. Continuing to invest in our infrastructure is crucial to making sure Virginia remains the best place to do business, live and work.

“There is rarely one answer to a challenge or problem that confronts us. We must conserve first and expand in ways that will provide safe and bountiful resources to power our future. We must solve problems with all means available to us, giving weight to those solutions which are the most sustainable and least costly. To build a better future for Fairfax County and the Commonwealth we must agree that good ideas don’t come with a party label.”

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