Virginia is in the worst Recession since the Great Depression. Because we cannot just borrow money like Congress in DC, we have to make cuts to balance the budget. It is so bad, that the state budget needs to be cut by $4 billion. So, while public safety, Medicaid and K-12 education are the last things any of us want to cut, my guess is, that in the end, there will be cuts. Several of those cuts may be in the form of eliminating some of the SOQ’s, thus reducing the amount of money needed in the budget. Given that cuts are inevitable, my concern this year is more about how these cuts are to be made.
In all of my campaigns, I made a promise to my constituents that I will do my best to protect Fairfax County from getting ripped off, and nowhere is this more important than in state funding for our schools. The solution to our Recession proposed by Governor Kaine last year was to have our school funds siphoned off to pay for schools in the rest of the state. With the help of my fellow NOVA Delegates and Senators, I was able to defeat that proposal last year. During my campaign this year, I stated that we Fairfax voters need to be weary of the same in 2010. Unfortunately, just as I predicted, Gov. Kaine’s proposed budget changes the school funding formula and directs $60 million from Fairfax County to other school systems over the next two years.
I can assure you that I will fight this at every step.
Here is how I understand the situation. Judging from the knowledge you showed in your e-mail, you most likely know all of this already, but just in case, here it is:
The Code via the Standards of Quality (“SOQ’s”) and Standards of Learning (“SOL’s”) establishes what quality of education all schools must have. This creates a required level of education funding. State school funding is distributed according to a formula called the Local Composite Index (“LCI”). The LCI is a formula which determines the share the state must pay to every local school district. The formula looks at relative wealth, and requires that areas that are “wealthy” get less money from Richmond and areas that are “poor” get more. And since Fairfax is one of the wealthiest areas in the US, we generally do not do well on this. In fact, we get about 24% of our school funding from Richmond, while other areas get up to 80%. This formula is re-calculated every two years, and has lots of components, one of which is real estate values.
This year’s recalculation was very interesting. Because of the burst in the housing bubble, some areas got clobbered more than others on real estate values. When the LCI was recalculated for the 2010-2012 biennial budget, because of massive drops in real estate values and some other factors, the formula dramatically changed in areas that suffered the most severe drops in real estate values. Believe it or not, for the first time, that formula changed to benefit Fairfax. That’s because our real estate values dropped in a greater proportion than other areas of the state. Thus, when the budget is calculated using the new LCI, many NOVA counties and cities get more of their education paid by the state than they did last biennium.
So here is where the nefarious move by the outgoing Governor comes into play. In his proposed budget, he delayed implementation of the new LCI. In other words, by delaying the implementation of the LCI in this budget, Fairfax does not get any of the funds that the new LCI would direct to us.
I find this to be the apex of hypocrisy. It is extremely maddening that people in localities such as mine have for years asked to have the LCI changed because we consistently receive so very little funding from Richmond. Now, when the LCI on its own finally sends more money to our area, the Governor decided not to use the LCI.
I have taken the lead on this and submitted a budget amendment to correct this injustice. This amendment merely requests that the state continue to use this same formula as it has for decades. Note that I don’t like the formula and ultimately wish it would change, but to not use it when it actually benefits my district, albeit slightly, is simply not fair.
Watch the debate about the bill here.