Educational Editorial: Chesterfield's 'bonus' is courageous, risky

By Dr. Bill Bosher, NBC12 Educational Specialist

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) –Chesterfield County Schools has decided to give its teachers a one-time "bonus" of two percent from savings that it has realized during the fiscal year. This decision is both courageous and risky.

First, let's look at school finance. In Virginia schools are fiscally dependent… this means that they go the Board of Supervisors or City Council for their funds.

Secondly, their fiscal year ends on June 30 and all unexpended general funds revert to the county or city. Third, school divisions must, no matter how large or small, have a fund balance at the end of the fiscal year…it is illegal for them to go into the "red."

In Chesterfield the County Administrator has traditionally expected the school division to "save" seven figures and to return it to be used to fund capital needs…facilities.

Chesterfield proudly has a school division with high performance and low costs per student. It now affirms that its greatest asset is its people…school budgets are 85 percent labor.

This is a courageous statement in a difficult time. As for the risks, taxpayers will rightfully say, "what about me?" County employees will ask, "Were we hit by the same reductions?" The unemployed will ask, "What about us?"… And understand that money is not the highest generator of employee satisfaction…during next year's budget debates the demand for more will be just as great.

While significant, let's put this in context…the cost of this bonus per student is about the same as three Frappuccinos at Starbucks, two Happy Meals at McDonald's or a decent tip after dinner for two at the Cracker Barrel. This doesn't seem extravagant for a strong year!

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