The Board of 4 Public Education is disappointed with the proposed budget released by Governor Youngkin on December 20, 2023. It seems that the Youngkin administration has dismissed the report by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) and their recommendations regarding the serious underfunding of public schools in Virginia. Also, the Governor has dismissed the results of an expansive study that concluded “efforts to close the learning gap should look at the more fundamental reasons for the disparity in achievement between affluent and disadvantaged children”, with the ‘quality and funding of schools’ among the factors with the greatest impact on closing achievement gaps.”
For more than two years the Governor has been using manufactured crises to inflame culture wars as a means of distracting Virginians from the true problems in our public schools – that they are seriously underfunded, understaffed, and teachers are undercompensated.
The JLARC report concluded that Virginia school divisions need 66 to 93 percent more funding, depending on the model used to estimate the degree of underfunding. Adjusting the funding formula to reflect the actual expenditures of school divisions would require an increase in state funding by 45 percent, or $2,700 per student. Of course, local funding obligations would also increase, but according to the JLARC report, “all localities are already contributing more than what is required; three-quarters are already contributing 45 percent or more above what is required.“
Instead of planning ahead for when the funding formula is corrected, Governor Youngkin’s proposed budget significantly reduces funding for public education in Virginia. Instead of paving the way to improve public education, his budget reveals his lack of commitment to a quality public education in Virginia. He has the mistaken notion that his proposed reduction in state taxes, which would mostly benefit the wealthy, would encourage people to move into the state. The truth is that low state tax levels are ineffective at attracting people, and it is the quality of public education that is the major factor motivating people to move to a state.
The Board of 4 Public Education encourages Virginia’s legislators to pass bills and budget amendments that will revise the out-of-date funding formula that Virginia uses, and increase rather than decrease funding to public education in Virginia. There is an urgent need to correct the way school divisions are funded as Virginia’s current formula still uses funding reductions that were put in place during the Great Recession of 2008, resulting in the serious underfunding of public education in Virginia.
We urge leaders of localities and other sectors of the Commonwealth to object to the Governor’s proposed budget and support amendments to his budget that will be proposed during the General Assembly session in January. We must realize the Governor’s proposed budget will damage the education of Virginia’s children, and the future of our economy.