On November 14, the Virginia Board of Education (VBOE) met and reviewed their annual report to the Governor and the General Assembly on the condition and needs of public schools in Virginia. In addition to detailing VBOE’s proposed revisions to the Standards of Quality (SOQs), the report provides a useful overview of the state of K-12 education across the Commonwealth. The report highlights many of the challenges school divisions face as well as the extraordinary efforts made by localities to ensure that an educational program of high quality is continually maintained.
VBOE is required by code to submit an annual report by December 1 that includes but is not limited to, a complete listing of the current SOQs and changes recommended by VBOE, an overview of the accreditation status of schools, and reporting requirements of local school divisions. The recent revisions to the SOQs prescribed by VBOE, the process in which they were prescribed, and their potential fiscal impact has been covered in detail elsewhere. However, some of the statistics mentioned in the report are worthy of mention.
The SOQs set the minimum educational requirements to be provided by local school divisions and funded by a combination of state and local school resources. The local share is determined by the Composite Index Formula (LCI) which is adjusted so that the statewide average local share is 45 percent and the statewide average state share is 55 percent. While this occurs for SOQ funded responsibilities, the cost sharing formula does not reflect the actual prevailing costs of maintaining a high standard K-12 education system.
The VBOE report recognizes that local governments are funding a disproportionate share of the cost of K-12 education in Virginia. Every locality in Virginia funds its share of K-12 responsibilities in excess of the minimum standards as prescribed by the SOQs. In fact, the majority of public school funding in Virginia, 51 percent, is from localities. The state contributes 42 percent of public school funding, with seven percent from federal sources. In FY 2017-2018, Virginia localities invested $4.2 billion above the required local effort for SOQ programs. These figures reflect the eight percent decrease in state support in real dollars since the 2009-2010 school year.
Despite the decrease in state funding, during the same period the total student population across the state increased by 5 percent, or 54,114 students, from 1,235,062 students in 2008-2009 to 1,289,176 students in 2018-2019. Furthermore, the number of economically disadvantaged students, English Learners, and students with certain disabilities has increased disproportionately. Economically disadvantaged students, (I.e. students who 1) are eligible for Free/Reduced Meals; 2) receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); 3) are eligible for Medicaid; or 4) identify as either migrant or experiencing homelessness) increased by 31 percent or 121,684 students. The number of English Learner students increased by 23 percent or 20,138 students and now represent eight percent of the total student population. Students identified with autism increased by 131 percent or 13,363 students, while students identified in the other health impairments disability category increased by 34 percent or 8,862 students. Additional resources are needed to ensure that these students achieve equitable and successful educational outcomes.
The revisions to the SOQs prescribed by VBOE specifically request that the General Assembly remove the recession era cap on state aid to support positions. Removal of the “support cap” would yield $371.6 million in additional state funding to localities to help pay for positions currently funded entirely by local effort. VACo continues to urge the General Assembly to provide full state funding for public education in accordance with VBOE recommendations where such recommendations coincide prevailing local practice.
The full annual report can be found here.
VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett