Urban Crescent K-12 Education Funding Op-Ed
On December 11, 2015, more than 150 local government, school division, and business leaders from Virginia's Urban Crescent - the area from Northern Virginia to Richmond to Hampton Roads comprising 24 percent of the Commonwealth's land area and home to over 70 percent of its school-aged children - met to discuss concerns regarding the state's share of funding for public education.
Their concern was animated by the fact that since 2008-09, the Commonwealth has reduced its share of spending on public education by more than $1 billion. This has meant that state funding on a per pupil inflation adjusted basis has decreased from $4,275 at that time to $3,655 today - for the Williamsburg-James City County school system this has meant a loss of over $6 million. Further, while Virginia stands in the top ten in both per capita and median household income, it remains in the bottom ten for public education funding.
At first glance, it may not appear that localities across an area that contains many of Virginia's largest cities and counties as well as some of it smallest have a lot in common. However, like all communities within the Commonwealth they have a number of common interests - one of the most important being the provision of quality public education to prepare all our children for a successful future.
Without adequate State funding for public education, our communities have struggled to provide the public education our citizens expect and deserve and that has implications for our communities, regardless of size, in a variety of ways.
First, as additional local funds have been devoted to K-12 education, localities have struggled, and continue to struggle, to find the resources to support public safety and other essential services for our residents. Local governments cannot realistically sustain the extraordinary funding demands for education of the past several years.
This has also increased pressure on property taxes with negative impacts on efforts to attract new businesses and on economic development.
Second, for Virginia to compete in the national and global economy, quality K-12 education is a necessity.
Businesses and individuals make location choices with an eye toward the local education system both for their families as well as for the educated workforce they need today as well as in the future.
STEM education and career-technical training that are such a critical part of preparing young people for the workforce are among the most expensive.
Third, under financial constraints, program enrichments fall by the wayside, and the educational demands of special needs children and those with limited English, and the particular educational requirements of children in poverty place increased costs on systems already struggling to meet our community's needs.
Finally, adequate state funding is critical to ensuring that young people from jurisdictions with disparate resources have equitable access to a basic education that comes with across-the-board state funding.
The education system today is very different from that of even the recent past and as it continues to change, local resources can not meet the future needs of our children and our economy without the Commonwealth stepping up to meet its responsibility to fund a fair share of public K-12 education.
Thus it is incumbent upon the state to make K-12 education a primary funding priority. The local governments, school divisions and business partners of the Virginia Urban Crescent call upon the 2016 Virginia General Assembly and Governor to recognize the consequences of the Commonwealth's failure to adequately fund K-12 education and to increase meaningfully the Commonwealth's proportional and required share of funding for a high quality public education system.
Bryan K. Stephens
President & CEO
Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce
President & CEO
Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce
Mayor Clyde Haulman
City of Williamsburg
Chair of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission
HRPDC and HRTPO
This item was posted by a community contributor.