New report reveals Virginia schools are underfunded

Virginia is underfunding its schools, according to a new government watchdog report. 

The accusation comes as the governor and state lawmakers struggle to reach a budget deal over tax cuts and education spending. 

Here are the basics: Public schools in Virginia get money one of two ways –  from your local government and from the state. 

There is some federal funding but funding schools is largely Virginia's responsibility. 

The general assembly doles out state money to each district using a formula. It's called the Standards of Quality formula or SOQ. 

The general assembly's watchdog group — the joint legislative audit and review commission — just released a report saying that formula is underfunding Virginia schools to the tune of $1,900 per student less than the national average. 


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The auditors have made several recommendations to state lawmakers for immediate action. One option is simplifying the formula. Virginia is one of only nine states in the country to rely on a staff-based formula, which means they first calculate their staffing needs and then calculate the cost of that staff. 

The overwhelming majority of states — 34 to be exact — use a student-based formula calculating directly from the number of students in school.


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But who has the power to enact change?

"That's really up to the legislature," said Justin Brown, the senior associate director at the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission. "The constitution is very clear that the legislature has to seek to ensure a system of high quality is maintained, but it's up to the legislature to determine kind of how and at what level to fund it."

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin also plays a role. The rumored dark horse candidate for president made education the center of his gubernatorial election. Youngkin proposes the state budget. Last year, he proposed the largest education budget in history including a 10% raise for teachers, according to his spokesperson. This year, close to half a billion in education funding would be added. Senate Democrats want to double that amount, and they have not yet reached a deal.

The auditors also made several recommendations to lawmakers directing the department and Board of Education to develop new ratios for the formula. 

Just 10 days ago, Youngkin announced the appointment of three new board members. That would make eight out of nine Board of Education members Youngkin appointees, which is a supermajority.