Funding Education in our Rural District

There are at least two major issues that need to be addressed for us to improve school funding in District 18:

  1. Challenging the current tax loopholes that drive down Fauquier’s school funding, and
  2. Finding new sources of revenue to support schools in less populated rural areas.

Loophole – Wealthy tax breaks directly impact school funding

Income inequality is huge problem in the 18th. Higher real estate values and retail sales hurt Fauquier’s Composite Index, which Virginia uses to determine local ability to pay for public education. In practical terms this means the state looks at our real estate value and says: “You have a lot of money so you should be able to pay a larger share for schools.” The problem is tax breaks for rich land owners undermine this system. It is especially tough in rural areas where income inequality is more pronounced. It also doesn’t help that our incumbent Delegate, Michael Webert’s family is in the rich land owner category making it unlikely for him to take this on. When I’m elected, I will work hard to get proper funding for our schools.

Dedicated Revenue specifically to rural schools

Many Virginians assume when they buy a lottery ticket the profit is going directly to schools. That is not the case. School districts in Virginia get less than 30 percent of the total sales. The money goes into Virginia’s General Fund which is used to plug holes in the budget. I propose a dedicated portion of the total lottery ticket sales guaranteed for rural schools that need it the most. The General Assembly is the body which determines how monies are distributed from the lottery. District 18’s Delegate should be advocating for better use of this money for rural needs.

Stop Buffering On Rural Broadband

Tristan Shields
Virginia District 18 – 2017 Rare piranha plant growing in Rixeyville garden

You know you live in the country when:

  • Your kids use up all the internet one day into the cycle (duh, the Xbox updated automatically)
  • You can’t respond to a client during a heavy rain storm
  • You are so happy you held onto that grandfathered unlimited data plan on your phone
  • You go to the library to update your laptop, iPads, smartphones
  • Your internet bills are more than your mortgage
  • Netflix finally allowing downloads changed your life

Virginia’s 2016 Broadband Demand Campaign Report clearly shows that rural Virginians rely upon technologies that are expensive, usually with data caps and have limited ability to meet future bandwidth demands.  This impacts both our ability to provide high quality education and keep and attract business and entrepreneurs.

The economy is the biggest reason why we need access to high quality, affordable broadband in District 18 and all of rural Virginia TODAY.  Neglect the internet at your peril.

To illustrate,  I want to share the story of the Serbian Crown, a well-known Northern Virginia restaurant. It was a beloved 40-year old restaurant serving cuisine that once only European kings and Russian czars dined upon. Proprietor Rene Bertagna personally greeted guests, taking his time to teach them the pleasures of chilled vodka. Bertagna brought passion to his work and joy to his customers. However, he’ll spend the rest of his life paying for ignoring the internet.

Google Maps relies on people to update local business information. Anyone with a Google+ account can submit a change to local pages. Unbeknownst to Bertagna, someone listed his business as closed on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. Within months, the Serbian Crown suffered a 75% drop in customers. By the time one of his customers alerted him to the fact that his Google Maps listing was the culprit, Bertagna had closed the Serbian Crown.  He has spent the last two+ years suing Google (and losing).

At its best, the internet allows anyone to learn just about anything, anywhere at any time. You can turn to WebMD for personal health questions before going to the doctor, you can go to LegalZoom to decide if you need a lawyer, you can plan a fabulous vacation on the other side of the globe without using a travel agent. You can even figure out how to run for political office in Virginia :).

Modern digital technology has created a democratization of knowledge that has opened opportunities, shifted power dynamics and expanded globalization to a personal level. The result is a perfect opportunity for rural communities and businesses. This is why rural broadband for District 18 needs to be at the very top of the agenda. Put me in the Statehouse and I’ll work hard to make sure the internet works for us!