Tuesday, August 24, 2010

PWC Board votes to halt wasteful stimulus spending -- for now

Tonight, in an emergency session, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 with 1 abstention to halt any action by any county employee to commit the spending of the latest Obama pork bill.

The action was made necessary when the school administration, with no input from either the PWC BOCS or the School Board, announced they would start hiring 180 teachers on provisional contracts and integrate them into the school system.

Defenders of this dubious move claimed that it would be too disruptive to add teachers later in the year, which presumes that we were going to do so, and ignores the much larger disruption if the money was not obtained, or the elected officials decided not to take the money -- requiring the firing of the provisional teachers, AND the re-arrangement of classes in the middle of the year.

Unfortunately, while the school administration was happy to give this story to the papers, and to start implementing the hiring, they had no financial people in town to discuss the matter with the board. Nobody at the meeting mentioned the implication of this -- which is that with the financial people on vacation, someone in the administration made a decision to spend money WITHOUT CONSULTING THEM. If on the other hand they DID get opinions, those opinions should have been brought to the meeting.

Several school board members showed up at the emergency session, called when several board members recognized the horrible mistake about to be made, and reasoned that they had to put a stop to it.

Only 5 board members were in town, just enough to make a quorum. This led to the most pathetic action of the evening, when Supervisor Principi, realising he was the only member of the five who wanted to vote to hire teachers without any guarantee of having the money, thought he could stop the vote by leaving the meeting room, thus denying the rest of the board a quorum.

Fortunately, Supervisor May, in a quick thinking action, called for the vote and took the count while Principi stood at the door, not even able to successfully pull off his own bizarre plot. It took the county attorney only a short time to decide that since Principi was standing in the room at the time of the vote, they had a quorum, and the vote counted.

No doubt Principi will be livid about this, and complain about some breach of proper procedure. Of course, he knows that if the school administration hadn't tried to pull this coup while Corey Stewart was out of the country, they'd have had the votes without him -- and likely at least one other missing board member would have joined the vote to stop the hiring.

The issue is still alive. The school board will meet to discuss the matter, and eventually the state will decide whether to take the money or not.

We learned from the meeting that the state is free to spend the money on next year's budget, which means in fact that there was no rush whatsoever to put the teachers in place now. If we wait, the money, while it is still rediculous pork spending, can be used to hire teachers we actually will need.

Congratulations to Supervisors May, Stirrup, Covington, and Nohe for recognizing a serious problem and acting swiftly to mitigate and prevent the damage. Shame on Principi for attempting to circumvent the democratic process by walking out on his responsibilities. This isn't Texas, Mr. Principi -- don't act like Texas Democrats, hiding in some other state to avoid granting quorums.

Now it's time for the School Board to do the right thing, and take this process deliberatively, and forget about trying to load up on teachers this year.