The Washington Examiner reported this morning that the Fairfax County School Board voted last night to close Clifton Elementary School, despite the pleas of local parents not to close their school—one of the few public buildings and the core of the tiny community in southwestern Fairfax. In this tragedy, we can see a perfect example of the liberal tendency to expand government power down to the foundation of society at the expense of families and local associations.
Were the students performing badly, one could easily understand the benefit of sending the students to better schools nearby while saving money in the process. However, in this case Clifton Elementary has some of the best students in a county famous for having the best schools in the nation. Why tamper with a school that already produces good results?
Evading the true meaning of their actions last night, the callous majority of the School Board employed sterile and Orwellian bureaucratic language about “facilities improvement” and "committee reports" to deflect criticism that they were about to destroy the central focus of civic life for the people of Clifton. Much of the debate concerned an estimated $11 million in renovations that would be required to bring the historic structure up to modern building codes.
Parents who attended the three-hour meeting last night insisted that they would rather keep the school than have most of the renovations. Indeed, the water contamination that originally caused concern about renovations turned out not to even be an issue. Nevertheless, a large majority of the School Board was unmoved by the parents’ impassioned arguments. According to School Board records, only two members, Sandra Evans and Ilryong Moon, voted against closing the 58-year-old school.
Rather than respecting the wishes of parents who pay the taxes that fund the schools, the School Board philosopher-kings chose to enforce a bewildering array of bureaucratic regulations at the expense of basic human needs. Rather than fostering and encouraging the kind of parent involvement that is crucial to a good education, the School Board chose to disperse the students farther away from their homes. In short, rather than choosing what was best for the students, the School Board chose what was best for the government.
Clifton is a small town. The town hall and fire department are in the same building. There are a handful of churches and a general store, but no gas station, and the Virginia Railway Express doesn’t even stop as it rolls through the center of town. For the people of Clifton, the school is more than just a building. It is the heart of their community. For the majority who voted to close the school, it is nothing more than a collection of bricks and pipes to be maintained and funded at the expense of their own pet projects.