Kuesters, Maloney, and FDK

If you’re wondering what “FDK” is, read something else. If not, then you know that bringing full-day kindergarten to Loudoun county would cut the list of Virginia jurisdictions that don’t already have it from four down to three, and that doing so has become one of the short list of critical issues in this campaign cycle. Of course, it matters most in the race for school board, where the choice in Broad Run is between the incumbent, Republican-endorsed Kevin Kuesters, and his returning challenger, Democratic-endorsed Joy Maloney.

Here’s the short version: Maloney is solidly in support of FDK, Kuesters thinks it isn’t worth the money.

The longer version is where policy gives way to politics, as both of them know how popular the idea of FDK is in Loudoun county. Thus, for Joy Maloney, the fact that she is with the majority on this issue is something she wants known as widely as it can be. For Kevin Kuesters, the fact that he’s, at the best, on the fence about it, just isn’t going to win him many votes. So, Joy has the relatively easy task of telling voters she will try to get them what they want, while Kevin is stuck trying to look like he’s in favor of something that he actually doesn’t support. And that’s where you find out if a politician will talk straight or not. Alas, Kevin’s not.

Now, for what it’s worth, I get along with Kevin pretty well on a personal basis. He’s a pleasant guy who, with me, proves that two people with opposing political views can be mutually cordial. However, we’ve never run against each other in an election. Joy (who is also a very nice person) has fairly put it out there, in her campaign materials, that Kevin isn’t backing FDK. Here’s one of her flyers:

Comparative Mailer1


And, albeit a bit hard to read (for the lack of a lot of pixels), here’s Kevin’s online denial (from a Facebook ad):


Let’s blow that up a bit:


It says, “Joy Maloney’s mailer is dishonest.”

Is it? She does cite a reference. Let’s look at Kevin’s full statement from Ashburn Rising:

I will not support expanding full-day kindergarten just so the third graders reader better,” he said, also requesting more information [from school staff] about benefits in the senior year of high school.

That could be read as leaving him with an open mind, but still in need of convincing. That bit about “third graders” is an example of what we lawyers call “weasel words,” which are qualifiers that let you avoid the hard implications of whatever else it is that you’ve said. But, Kevin’s apologists might jump on the fact that Joy’s mailer kept the definite part (“I will not support expanding full-day kindergarten…”) while leaving out the weasel words. Those words, his apologists might say, make a difference.

Except they don’t and here is why: Kevin made his comment about third-graders in December of last year. In January of this year, in Leesburg Today, he said this:

There is clearly a strong belief that FDK is a valuable and desirable program offering for schools, which is a real benefit for property values. It is also true that FDK assists with childcare expenses and logistics for parents who do not have to arrange for half-day schooling and half-day childcare. On the other hand, research consistently shows that by third grade there is no statistical difference between the academic performances of students who attended FDK versus those who attended half-day kindergarten (except at-risk kids). As a school board member, I have to decide if the actual benefits (perceived value, short-term performance and childcare) outweigh the actual costs ($50 million one-time construction costs, $12 $14 million recurring annual costs).

In other words, Kevin had already made up his mind that his weasel words really didn’t matter. Moreover, he says he has to balance the needs of the students against the impact on the taxpayers. As a former member of the board of supervisors, I can say with certainty that such balancing is not the job of a member of the school board. The school board’s job is to develop a budget that will meet the needs of the students. While the Code of Virginia imposes a duty of frugality on school boards, it does not authorize school boards to knowingly exclude funding a program just to ease the burden imposed on taxpayers. (I will add that a bit of Googling will show you that research on the benefits of FDK are far from consistent in proving what Kevin asserts above: there’s a lot of evidence that FDK, if followed by appropriate first-grade and later curricula, has lasting benefits.)

Bottom line: Joy’s mailer is not dishonest. She’s holding Kevin Kuesters to his own position, which he now knows is not the one that the voters want him to take. Dirty politics is what you get when people make stuff up, lie about their opponents, or attack each other’s character. Joy’s mailer is as clean as it gets. Kevin may wish he’d said something else, but it’s the political process doing its job (and a political candidate doing hers) when all a campaign is doing is holding an elected official accountable for his public record.

Joy Maloney supports FDK. Kevin Kuesters doesn’t. That’s as clean as it gets.


Author: FirewallNOVA Left

I'm the voice from left of center at FirewallNOVA. Sometimes pretty far left, sometimes pretty close to center. Sometimes maybe not left of center at all. But, mostly, I'm a bleeding-heart liberal or, if not, the crowd on the other side tends to think I am. I can live with that.

4 thoughts on “Kuesters, Maloney, and FDK”

  1. Well, I’ll make my position clear….implementing FDK now, with a still massively growing school system, would be a poor use of county funds.
    FDK seems to be the mantra that the Dems are hanging their hat on. Yet, to my knowledge, not a single one has explained how to pay for it or what other funding items should be cut to pay for it.
    The reality is that it will take tens of millions of dollars to do it, most of which is building the space to put the kids. Should you simply raise taxes to whatever it takes? Even if you support that idea (which I’m sure most Dems would), then what about the cap on capital expenditures? Should the county just blow through that and jeopardize our credit rating? Which would make borrowing the money to pay for all this even more expensive?

    And for what gain? The kids graduating from this county do phenomenally well. look at graduation rates. look at percentage that go to college. Look at all the Loudoun schools that have gotten state, and national, rankings? Is FDK really worth it? I don’t think so.

    When the growth slows down and we are no longer building schools, then there may be room to support it without such a huge price tag.

    As far as Kuesters and trying to decide who’s telling the truth, it should be easy to find the truth. Did Kuesters vote for or against the expansion of Kintergarten? His voting record will show the answer.

  2. Last year when I first became really aware of the FDK issue in Loudoun I attended LEAP’s forum on the topic. It was the first time I had ever seen Mr. Kuesters in person and he made it perfectly clear that he didn’t buy into the importance of FDK. I was really appreciative of his participation in the forum as he must have known upfront that he would be in the minority opinion. The problem was, the longer he talked the worse his reasoning seemed to get. I’d call it almost dismissive. Unintentionally he helped move my opinion towards FDK.

    Cliff, I don’t think anyone is suggesting that universal FDK can be attained immediately but what really bothers me is the lack of a plan. Are we building new schools with the capacity for FDK or are we building them for more of the same that will require later expansion? I wouldn’t mind if a responsible plan was put forward that could balance the cost against the community’s desire for FDK and I know that my own children will likely never see FDK but I do believe it’s an asset to the county. I’m glad to see the changes Superintendent Williams has helped bring and it should continue. If I was told that the school board and supervisors had agreed to a long-term universal FDK plan after examining several scenarios prepared by county staff then I’d be satisfied. The exact cost and timeframe should be debated but until the officials agree on the goal it’s a little hard to honestly debate the path forward and that is why I don’t support Kuester for reelection.

  3. Travis- Good points and I agree with you…..nothing wrong with looking at a long term plan to get it done. But some of the Dems have been campaigning that there is no need to wait, do it NOW! That was the message from Resnick and Navarez at their candidate forum.
    The School Board has been implementing more and more FDK in a responsible manner. Put together a long term plan, look at the costs, then determine how and when it can be done.
    The BoS demonstrated this past year that they are willing to fund LCPS at higher levels, and were able to do so within an equalized tax rate.
    This is the type of cooperation between the Boards that needs to continue.
    The mantra of FUND IT ALL NOW! will probably not work so well for future Board cooperation. Unless, of course, they are all Dems. But I shudder to think that.

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