By Tim Chapman, Democratic Candidate for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors
The Fairfax County public school system loses roughly 40% of its teachers every five years. Fairfax County is losing people who have chosen dedicate their lives to serving others, who spend their days educating, nurturing and caring for our children. Sadly, most often, we lose them to nearby jurisdictions where the pay is higher and the housing is more affordable. These jurisdictions have succeeded in making a priority what Fairfax County has failed to. As Fairfax County teacher pay falls below our neighboring jurisdictions, class sizes are increasing and the quality of our school facilities continue to deteriorate. Teachers, perhaps the youngest most promising teachers, are voting with their feet. The resulting disruption and disenchantment spells trouble for our schools and especially our children. Our schools are at a tipping point.
The growing turnover among teachers is compounded by the rapidly rising cost of living, seen in the dramatic increase in Fairfax County’s housing costs.
As anyone who has run a successful organization knows, the cost of rapid, excessive turnover is dramatic and non-recoverable. By not prioritizing teacher retention, Fairfax County is wasting valuable dollars that could be better applied to the reduction of class sizes and the modernization of school facilities.
To address this growing problem, I propose freezing county property taxes for any full-time teacher, police officer, firefighter or county employee after 5 years of service. To make Fairfax County a more desirable employment option and to encourage our best, brightest and most important employees to remain in the county, we will use our tax structure to incentivize teachers just as the county has previously used our tax structure for the benefit of large real estate developers. Everyone will pay their fair share of taxes, but as long as these essential employees serve the citizens of Fairfax County, their property tax burden will not continue to increase.
This is just a first step, but it’s the least we can do to stabilize a school system and employment problem that has drifted into troubled waters. Our children deserve better. Our teachers have shown their dedication. Now it’s our turn to more creatively fix long-term problems that can no longer be ignored.
Tim Chapman lives in Fairfax County with his wife Julianna and their five kids. Tim has 20 years of affordable housing experience including the Chair of the Virginia Housing Development Authority under Governor Terry McAuliffe. You can learn more about Tim’s campaign at www.chapmanforchair.com, or via his Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts @ChapmanforChair.