Funding for Public Education
An issue that constantly plagues our Commonwealth is funding for public education. Last month the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission released a report showing that Virginia’s schools have fewer resources and higher needs than at any other time in recent history. Our classrooms are larger, the teacher retention is a challenge and the curriculum is out of date.
In 2014 localities fronted 56% of school spending, or $3.6 billion beyond their requirement. This is especially an issue in those areas that lack the resources to make up the shortfall. The reason for this lack in funding is because of the state’s watered down funding formula that was put in place at the beginning of the recession. All of this culminates with Virginia’s local governments paying more for public education than 39 other states.
Currently, school districts have to make choices between cutting funds for instruction, teacher support services and/or buildings. We are one of the wealthiest regions in this nation. Thankfully, this wealth has provided our students with a world class education that keeps us globally competitive. Make no mistake about it, when it comes to businesses coming to Virginia, an educated work force often seals the deal.
At the state level, we are spending significantly less on students today than in 2005, which is problematic because our students have more needs now than in prior years. Sadly, the poverty rate has increased by 45% and the number of students with limited English proficiency has increased by 69%. It is an unrealistic expectation our schools will remain competitive if we do not act prudently. Investing in our children’s education is essential when it comes to diversifying and growing Virginia’s economy. This is a message I have shared many times and will continue to fight for as we form the biennial budget in the 2016 session of the General Assembly.
In addition to electing our local officials, this Nov. 3 we have the opportunity to elect all 140 members of Virginia’s General Assembly. We have the choice between supporting candidates who believe in Governor McAuliffe’s vision of a prosperous and diversified Virginia economy, and those who only wish to stand in the way of progress. Whether it is bringing needed funding for our infrastructure or fighting to maintain Virginia’s pro-business climate, I have continuously fought to make our district the best possible.
Sadly there has been a downward trend with voter turnout for these off year elections. In 1991 voter turnout for legislative-only elections was 49%, however, 2011 voter turnout was down to 29%. We need you to vote. This year’s election determines not only the makeup of the General Assembly in Richmond, but also city council, board of supervisors, school boards and lots of other local positions that have an impact on our daily lives.
Absentee voting has already started and there is still time to register to vote if you have not done so yet. More information can be found on the various websites.
It is my pleasure to serve as your State Senator, and I look forward to the opportunity to once again represent Senate District 35 in Richmond.
Senator Saslaw represents the 35th District in the Virginia State Senate. He may be emailed at [email protected]