School reps set for budget showdown

Published 9:21 pm Monday, January 17, 2011

Superintendents and education representatives from all 133 school districts in Virginia will hold a press conference today to outline their frustrations with the education funding situation.

They are expected to tell the governor, members of the General Assembly and Congressional representatives that they are opposed to more education cuts, unfunded mandates, pay-for-performance pilot programs and requirements to spend 65 percent of their budgets on instruction.

According to the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, this will be the third year in a row the state’s education budget has been cut. However, government requirements continue to be added, costing more time and money, they said in a press release.

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Among other things, school districts are concerned about the loss of last year’s “hold harmless funding” and proposed new Virginia Retirement System requirements.

The association also asserts that state aid to school systems has been decreasing as a percentage of the general fund budget.

Gov. Bob McDonnell has proposed that state employees begin paying for part of their own pension plan, a suggestion that already is drawing the ire of teachers and others throughout the commonwealth.

In addition, school systems will be watching the situation surrounding state aid.

Last year, the formula that dictates how much state aid each school system receives was due to be updated — a change that would have dealt a detrimental budget blow to a number of systems, including Suffolk’s. However, state legislators provided the additional funding to those school districts and planned to provide half the funding this year, giving the districts time to adjust to the change.

However, according to state Senator Fred Quayle, the governor has decided to take that money — about $57 million — for another project, leaving legislators scrambling for a way to fill the gap.