Video: Courageous, Passionate Speech by Fairfax County School Board Member Ryan McElveen

Video: Courageous, Passionate Speech by Fairfax County School Board Member Ryan McElveen


This is amazing, I strongly recommend that everyone watch the entire speech. Fortunately, there are a LOT of people out here, myself included, who greatly respect honest, hard-working public servants like Mr. McElveen, not to mention some of the most valuable members of our society – people who work to educate the next generation. All of these people – the school board members, the teachers, the bus drivers, the cafeteria workers – deserve to be paid, and respected, commensurate, with the great value they provide. Here are excerpts:

Tonight’s discussion is our own localized version of a vibrant, ongoing, global, philosphical debate, to which noone around the world really has found a definitive answer…how much should citizens pay their leaders…A vast majority of studies by economists…show that higher public official salaries will bring better and more talented candidates into politics, just like higher salaries would do for all education professionals…As everyone knows, our decision tonight unfortunately combines two of the things  most demonized in American public discourse today. Number one elected officials. And more importantly for our purposes, public education

Put simply, there’s a lack of respect for what we do as educators, and an even greater lack of respect for what we do as education public officials. The fact that we have had more people sign up to testify to protest potential school board raises tonight than showed up to testify before the Board of Supervisors to support our school system budget is emblematic of this critical American paradox…What you’re witnessing tonight is not just disrespect of school board members, it is disrespect of public education and all of us who engage in that work…It is important to remember that respect starts at the top…

The current climate of disrespect of our school system and of public education is not cool with me. If we continue to be viewed as second-class citizens by society, and more importantly by the Board of Supervisors that supposedly is there to support us, that’s to noone’s advantage…That lack of respect is consistently transferred to our employees in the form of inadequate funding to use for their compensation increases…We should all be in this together to fight for the respect of public education…

So tonight’s discussion is not just about us up here, it’s about you — our teachers, our cafeteria workers, our custodians, our bus drivers, our principals and our families. For our employees who are witnessing this tonight, I only hope you know we hold more respect for you than

America society does for all of us, as public officials and as educators…I for one think the position of teacher should be the highest paid in society, but that won’t happen until we restore society’s respect for the work that we all do together.

Tonight, as my colleague’s are aware, I will be voting against my conscience. I will vote against doing what is right.  Instead, I will be voting to represent the many members of our community who have reached out to us, and in a sense, devalued our work and failed to realize that the school board advocates for everyone in our school system. I will vote no to represent all of those who believe that public education isn’t worth the money, that all the facets of our organization from our bus drivers to our superintendent aren’t worth the respect of society.

The question we should be asking tonight isn’t whether the community wants a second-class school board. If that’s what the community wants, then they will only receive a second-class school system…we haven’t really taken much time to talk about the price we play as public servants in American society. Our privacy is invaded, our free time is nonexistent, our family lives are uprooted…I cannot look into the fact of students today and encourage them to be public servants because of what I’ve experienced…

Maybe, just maybe my no vote tonight will results in one fewer expletive-laden voicemail, one fewer person interested in hacking my family’s computers and utility accounts, one fewer person calling my house in the middle of the night so incessantly that the phone has to be unhooked. Just maybe.  We might not be here for the money, as Mr. Moon said, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be accorded basic human dignity. We shouldn’t be punished for seeking to serve our community. And the current system punishes all of us.

So next year when our board chairman presents our budget to the Board of Supervisors, and those Supervisors dismiss our presentation by looking down, doodling and smirking like we’re second-class citizens, I encourage our FCPS community of public educators to remember this conversation about respect and the lack thereof, and you’ll understand why so many of my colleagues are so passionate about this issue, and why you should have been too.

  • FredFred

    Was a great speech until the point where he said he was going to vote against his conscience, with the way the voters wanted him to vote, and oppose the pay hike.  

    At that point – there was no longer any courage.  Nobody in the audience, maybe a few hundred people have seen the web recording.  He’s right about how we don’t treat teachers and other school officials with respect, but instead of voting that way, he voted the exact opposite.  That’s not political courage, that’s business as usual.