Babur Lateef's Television Ad Striking Out
Prince William County School Board Chairman Milton Johns said Babur Lateef's new television ad that attacks incumbent Corey Stewart uses old data that is taken out of context and wrongly insinuates that supervisors have control over class sizes.
Babur Lateef's new television ad may be flashy and creative but Prince William County School Board Chairman Milton Johns says it's out of context and misleads voters.
The ad, which Lateef has asked supporters to help fund so it can run until Election Day, accuses incumbent Corey Stewart of ignoring local issues while accepting $37,500 from the minor league baseball team Potomac Nationals, which plays at a Woodbridge stadium. The ad's setting is a baseball game and criticizes Stewart for numerous things, including turning down $17 million in federal funding and 40-percent increases in class sizes—a claim that concerns Johns. At the end of the ad, Lateef pops up on the screen as a baseball umpire.
Michael McLaughlin, Lateef's campaign manager, said they used fiscal years 2006-2011 stats from the Washington Area Boards of Education Guide to calculate the class size percentage.
Johns said those stats are outdated, and the most-recent fiscal year 2012 stats show class sizes did not increase 40 percent. Johns said the stats used for the ad compare students per classroom teacher. But WABE also measures students per teacher scale positions, which Johns said is the most accurate measurement of class sizes because it includes ESOL and special education teachers, art, music, physical education and librarians. He said these are teachers the school system is required to have and students the system is required to teach, so they should be included when looking for the most accurate measurement.
"I really think it is being taken out of context without understanding the staffing requirements for the school division," he said.
Johns said another misconception that people may pull from the ad is that supervisors have control over matters such as class sizes, when they do not. Even if there was a real 40-percent increase in class sizes, the Board of Supervisors couldn't do anything to change this, Johns said.
"The supervisors don’t have any direct impact on class sizes," he said.
Stewart said he thought the ad was "cute" but the criticism is false.
"With regard to school funding, the Board did not turn down $17 million. We accepted the federal funding but saved the funds until the next fiscal year to avoid one-time funding being used to cover ongoing expenses. By doing this, we avoided laying off any teachers like other jurisdictions did who allocated the funding immediately," Stewart said.
In reference to the donations from the baseball team, Stewart said the Board of County Supervisors voted unanimously to invest the minimal amount needed to maintain county-owned Pfitzner Stadium, to prevent the Washington Nationals from moving the franchise to another jurisdiction.
Stewart said he will counter Lateef's attack with his own ad that highlights Lateef's financial mismanagement that led to his $1.2 million home going into foreclosure. Stewart earlier this year sent mailers to county residents that criticized Lateef for poor money management, referenced an investigative story that was published on Woodbridge Patch and sends people to the website BaburLateef.com, which provides evidence that Lateef may have purposely allowed the foreclosure. Lateef, a local eye doctor, never moved out of the house because his sister-in-law bought it at auction. Lateef, whose wife is also a doctor, also owns two commercial offices and a townhouse. Before the house went to foreclosure, his wife's name was removed from the deed.
"Using her maiden name, Dr. Lateef’s sister-in-law purchased the estate for cash out of foreclosure for half the value of the mortgage," Stewart said Tuesday night. "He continues to live in the estate with the foreclosure now wiped out. We understand that there is an ongoing investigation by the Commonwealth Attorney's Office to determine whether Dr. Lateef's financial shenanigans were illegal or merely unethical."
McLaughlin said trying to play with the numbers by including specialty teachers is "bureaucratic double speak." He said that Stewart spent fives year in office cutting school funding and senior services.
"The numbers speak for themselves," wrote Lateef's campaign manager in an email today. "In five years under Corey Stewart class sizes have increased. When you walk into a classroom across the county you can see the negative effect of Chairman Stewart's wrong priorities."
Stewart, a Republican faces Lateef, a Democrat, and independent candidate John Gray on Nov. 8.