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Virginia lawmakers routinely underfund public school systems
Legislators must like homeschooling; they inadequately fund public schools every year.

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Date published: 4/4/2004

FUNDING TO continue quality K-12 education in Stafford County is in jeopardy.

The General Assembly continues its debate over state finances. Gov. Mark Warner's proposed budget included more than $700 million in additional funding for K-12 education. But the House and Senate are finding it hard to compromise on a state budget.

Additionally, Stafford County supervisors announced they would cut the county real-estate tax rate--now $1.14 per $100 of assessed value--by at least 10 cents when they advertised a maximum rate of $1.04.

The plain truth is that the state has not been funding its fair share of K-12 education, therefore forcing more and more of the funding for quality education to the locality. The following facts paint a very clear picture of Stafford's unfortunate state of affairs:

Unless the state adopts a budget that significantly increases K-12 funding, Stafford County public schools may be forced to make significant programmatic cuts which could include: reducing the number of teachers, eliminating elementary programs such as art and music, eliminating extracurricular activities, and/or not building schools to accommodate additional students.

Budget reductions such as these will impair our ability to recruit and retain quality teachers, increase class sizes, reduce programs, and delay construction of much needed school facilities--all of which impact the quality of Stafford schools' educational programs.

Virginia is 11th in the nation in personal income per capita, yet Virginia is 49th in the nation in its allocation of state funding for K-12 education (regardless of whether one agrees with these rankings, Virginia is very high on per capita income and low on state funding for K-12 education).

Over the past four years, state per-pupil funding for Stafford increased 6.7 percent while the inflation rate increased 10.6 percent.

Over the past five years, Stafford's funding for schools has increased from 32 percent to 44 percent of the total budget due to the continued underfunding of education by the state.

In November 2001, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, the nonpartisan watchdog agency of the General Assembly, reported that Virginia's K-12 education is underfunded by $500 million per year, or $1.06 billion per biennium.

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