Cuts made by Virginia lawmakers since the recession have reduced state support for Virginia’s schools by about $800 million per year, according to a new report from The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, an economic and policy research organization in Richmond. The cuts stem from 12 different policy changes enacted by lawmakers, many made within the state’s complex education funding formula. And all but one are still in place today. They include capping the number of support staff the state will help pay for at levels below what schools need, eliminating support for certain equipment and travel expenses, and increasing the estimated lifespan of buses. These arbitrary changes caused a precipitous drop in state funding, according to the report, and undermine the intent of the formula lawmakers use to determine how much school funding the state should contribute to the shared cost of education.
“The changes made to the formula helped the state balance its budget during a time of financial strain, but do not reflect the realities facing Virginia’s schools,” says Chris Duncombe, policy analyst with the Institute and lead author on the report. “Now that the state’s in a better financial position, it’s time to fix the formula.”