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The Right Note: School Construction Costs and Political Gamesmanship

by Mark Kelly October 4, 2018 at 2:45 pm 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Arlington Public Schools finally released the long-awaited audit of school construction costs. The bottom line from the auditor is that Arlington’s past construction costs are generally in line with other jurisdictions in the area.

However, according to the document, the new Wilson school would cost over $555 per square foot and $130,000 per seat. The per seat number is more than double the per seat cost for recent school buildings in the county. In other words, Arlington should be able to add up to twice as many seats for the money.

In what can only be explained as a purely partisan political move, the Arlington Education Association PAC endorsed Democrat Matthew de Ferranti this week over John Vihstadt. Nothing in the AEA’s endorsement said anything specific about what he de Ferranti would do to support or improve the education of our kids. Here is the endorsement in its entirety:

Matt impressed the interview committee with his deep commitment to social equity and his understanding of the issues facing both employees and students of medium and lower income in their struggle to live and work in Arlington County. Matt demonstrated that he is a leader open to hearing the ideas and concerns of our community.  His voice on the County Board would help make our local government a more effective advocate for all of Arlington’s residents.

Vihstadt was president of the Yorktown PTA and co-chaired a school bond campaign in the county. And by all accounts, has been supportive of education funding while serving on the County Board.

Speaking of purely partisan political moves, Governor Northam this week threatened to veto the latest redistricting plan offered by Republicans in the House of Delegates. When the original plan passed, it had support from both Democrats and Republicans in Richmond. And Democrats in the General Assembly had expressed a desire to help draw the lines again.

Worse than not supporting the current plan, the Governor does not support the House of Delegates moving a plan at all. Instead, he is calling for the courts to redraw the lines.

Northam’s unwillingness to work with Republicans to find a solution without involving the courts demonstrates more than a striking lack of leadership. It is a blatant attempt to get what he believes will be a better political outcome for his party. Voters should remember this next time Democrats talk about the need for bipartisan solutions during a campaign.

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