Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland talks school funding at a recent town hall event in Haymarket. [Leigh Giza / For Potomac Local News]

HAYMARKET, Va. – A local leader says he wants more money for Prince William County’s public schools.

Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland held a town hall Thursday night at Alvey Elementary School in Haymarket to speak to area residents about what he said is the need to “act right away” to provide more funds to the county school board to cut class sizes, which are now at their maximum capacity, he said. The number of students in classrooms is larger than those of schools in neighboring Loudoun and Fairfax counties, according to a Washington Area Board of Education report.

Candland advocates raising the amount of money the School Board automatically gets from the county in an annual budget transfer, which is currently 57.23% of the county budget, to allow the Board to hire additional teachers and to pay them salaries comparable to what educators earn in surrounding counties.

Elected leaders will begin working on the FY 2015 county budget early next year. During the last year’s budget process, the automatic transfer from the county government to the schools was increased about 1% in FY 2014. At the same time, the county schools’ budget rose 2.8% over the previous year to nearly $1 billion.

The average salary for a teacher in Prince William County is $58,893, while teachers in Manassas make an average of $60,893, an average of $64,813 in Fairfax County. Regionally, teachers in Montgomery County, Md. top the average teacher salary list with $74,855 per year, according to a WABE report.

Candland said that class sizes in Prince William County are now the highest of all the public schools in Virginia. He added studies show that large classes with more than 30 students per teacher can create a number of problems, including teacher attrition, lower SAT scores, and more classroom time being used for disciplining students.

Candland said the blame for overcrowded classrooms must be shared by the Board of County Supervisors and the School Board, noting the Board of Supervisors is guilty of not requiring developers to pay higher proffers to cover the increase in demand for county services, including schools, that occur when new developments are built. And, he faulted the county’s School Board for not wisely prioritizing spending of the money in its budget, citing the proposed swimming pool at the soon-to-be-built 12th high school as an example of allocating money for something “nice” instead of “what is needed.”

Following Candland’s presentation, Melba Williams, a county school parent, read aloud a letter written by Prince William Gainesville District School Board representative Alyson Satterwhite, who was unable to attend the town hall.

“His push during our last budget cycle to increase the cost share agreement between Prince William County and the Prince William County Schools was a direct benefit to our students. It is through his efforts that we did not face further direct cuts to our individual schools in our current budget over the already imposed .5% cuts to each school,” Satterwhite wrote in her letter.

Satterwhite also stated that she opposes the use of school board money for construction of a pool at the 12th high school, saying that the money should come instead from either the county budget or private enterprise.

One parent in the audience, Esther Carmichael, told Candland she is considering taking her children out of the county schools they attend because she is concerned they will not receive a high-quality education due to the large class sizes.

About 50 people attended the town hall meeting.