Loudoun FY15 School Budget Cuts – 40% of its Top Students May Lose Bus Service, Be Left Behind
  Posted Monday, April 7th, 2014 at 10:49

If you’ve been following the annual Loudoun County FY15 school budget process, there’s certainly a long list of possible cuts that may happen – ranging from elimination of Freshman sports and “device rebates” to employees, to eliminating staff support including the technology and library assistants.

Included in this list, is cutting bus service to Thomas Jefferson High School – a Virginia state Governor’s Magnet High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST – in Alexandria). Students from all over Northern Virginia compete for pure merit-based entry to this school, consistently rated in the top 5 schools in the entire nation (#1 from 2006-2013) – an incredible honor and opportunity for our very best and brightest Loudoun STEM-oriented students.

In the past several years, TJ is also the destination for approximately 40% of Loudoun County’s National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalists (15 out of 40 hardworking, committed Loudoun students this past year), a fact proudly advertised on the LCPS website .

Loudoun is now considering eliminating school bus service for these students, about 40% of its top students, and for ALL of some of Loudoun’s highest-performing STEM students (over 200) traveling to TJHSST every day, representing our County in the most critical areas of STEM education and research.

Loudoun is in the process of enhancing its county-centric high school STEM offerings, to supplement the current “Academy of Science” advanced STEM program (that is currently meeting just a very small portion of the overall, quickly-growing demand for these advanced classes and research, and provides only a very small percentage of the course offerings available via TJ). The “Academies of Loudoun” will combine the C.S. Monroe Technology Center and a newly-proposed “Academy of Engineering and Technology” on a 119 acre site along Sycolin road southeast of Leesburg.

This movement to accommodate Loudoun’s demand for both advanced and vocational STEM education is underway, but will likely take at least a decade to begin to deliver the level of opportunity and national reputation that TJ enjoys, having itself taken over 25 years to develop.

In the meantime, should Loudoun shoot itself in the foot, i.e. its developing STEM initiative and resultant attractiveness in both educational and economic development terms, by eliminating basic school bus service to nearly 50% of the very top students in the county? Why should these public school children at the very upper end of the educational aptitude scale be “left behind”, at the bus stop? That’s an extremely negative, “penny-wise yet pound-foolish” message to be sending to families and businesses looking to Loudoun for opportunity and growth.

Hopefully the vote scheduled for this week by the Loudoun School Board, will not leave behind its very top students, at the bus stop.