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School prepare for the worst

While Virginia lawmakers have been engrossed in ongoing discussions of increasing speed limits, voting down legislation to strengthen seat belt laws and addressing the much-needed topic of allowing concealed guns into restaurants that serve alcohol, the commonwealth’s education system has been foundering.

During the past couple of months, school systems have been putting together “doomsday” budgets and planning for worst-case scenarios about just how much the state will be cutting from their 2010-2011 budgets.

During this time, Gov. Bob McDonnell, in one of his first education-based decisions, sought the favor of Northern Virginia voters at the expense of nearly every other portion of the state, by announcing that the ratio used to allocate state funding would be changed, despite his predecessor’s wish that it remain static.

The result? Northern Virginia schools will get more money, our schools less.

For the most part, local lawmakers have sat silently by. There has been little outrage against this decision and its impact. There has been no orchestrated outcry by lawmakers to change the way funding is divided up.

Thankfully, though, we are a step closer to being able to take a concealed handgun into a bar.

In a time when state and local revenue sources are being severely strained by a sluggish economy, it seems our lawmakers have been working to decide every other issue other than the ones that are the most important to Virginia residents.

Is the speed limit on I-81 really going to create one more job in Suffolk? Will allowing gun owners to carry concealed weapons with them for a night out on the town do anything to help fully fund a vital education program or provide much-needed raises to our teachers?

The answer to both of those questions is an emphatic “no.”

The priorities of our leaders must be changed, and changed quickly. We elect our leaders believing they are the best amongst us and represent our best interests — not those of lobbyists and special interests. We ask them to make decisions for the betterment of all of Virginians, not just those in the northern zip codes.

With the legislative session nearly halfway over, we challenge our legislators — particularly those who call Suffolk and Hampton Roads home — to better prioritize their efforts and solve the important problems, not the ones that make for the best stories.