On Tuesday, April 17, we will vote on the compromise budget for public education. On this issue, as your delegate, there are two things that have been most important to me: (1) to deliver more funding to our public schools and (2) to stop the money grab that often denies Northern Virginia of its fair share of funding. The new proposed budget delivers on both of these issues. It brings more money to our public schools than I can remember during my 19 years as your delegate, and it defeats Southern Virginia’s attempt to kill the Cost of Competing Adjustment funding stream that helps high cost areas like Fairfax pay the higher salaries commanded by life in Northern Virginia!
The first piece of great news is that the Local Composite Index, which usually results in less money for Fairfax, this year, brings $40 million more to Fairfax County schools! For those who don’t know, the Composite Index determines how much the state will pay for schools and how much the local governments have to pay. This index looks at the number of children enrolled in the school, and the assessed value of homes and other local property. This helps the state to figure out how much local leaders can raise in tax revenue to contribute towards school funding. The “poorer” a locality is, the more money it gets from the state and vice versa. This year’s proposed composite index gives more money to our area since our property values have dropped due to the recession. In other words, we are less “rich” than we used to be, so the state has to kick in more money for our schools.
The second piece of great news is that the budget restores all but 10% of the cut of Cost of Competing Adjustment (COCA) funding for our area. This funding formula provides extra funds to areas with high costs of living to make it attractive for teachers to work there. In his original budget, Governor McDonnell cut funding for this, a move that would have lost Fairfax County millions in funding. More worrisome is that if this was eliminated, it would not appear in future budgets, thus robbing us for years in the future. As you might have read in my previous blogs, I led the fight to restore this funding by introducing a budget amendment to counter the Governor’s action. Though it wasn’t completely restored, 90%, around $10 million, was restored.
To sum up, the funding budgeted for the 2012 Fiscal Year (July 2011-June 2012) distributed $2,871.33 per student. For the upcoming fiscal year (July 2012-June 2013), the proposed budget distributes $3,270.66 per Fairfax County student. If this budget is agreed upon, our Fairfax schools will receive $399.33 more per student than last year, an increase of about $77 million dollars for our schools! Now there should be no excuse for failing to put WSHS renovation on for 2014, no excuse for cutting band, language immersion, freshman sports, or any of the other things contemplated when the School Board says it is “underfunded.”
This proposed budget marks a tremendous accomplishment for Fairfax County Schools, delivering more money to our students than I can remember in my nearly two decades of service in the House of Delegates. On top of that, it kills a formula change that would have robbed us for years to come!