Tuesday, January 26, 2010

**UPDATED*** "Fairfax's Own" Proposes to Short NOVA's Schools $144M

Last month, Governor Kaine proposed to freeze rebenchmarking or adjusting of the Local Composite Index which has been done every year for decades for one year. This change in policy has the net effect of denying Fairfax County about $61 million in new education funding due to the implosion of our real estate market and exploding school population. I blogged about this two times already here and here.

Yesterday, Governor McDonnell who campaigned on the idea that he was from Mt. Vernon and understood Northern Virginia's needs confirmed that he is going to affirm this policy decision, not just for one year but at least until 2012.

McDonnell’s office confirmed Friday that he would uphold the freeze implemented by Kaine. The outgoing governor proposed freezing the index until the 2012 fiscal year. He theorized that this would protect 97 school divisions that would lose money if the formula were re-calculated. McDonnell Freezes School Funding Formula, The Virginia Gazette (Jan. 25, 2010).
This decision is a breach of the state's responsibility to Northern Virginia's children. Here are the top six affected jurisdictions according to the numbers I was given yesterday.
Fairfax County$61 Million
Loudoun County$34 Million
Prince William County$22 Million
Stafford County$4.5 Million
Fauquier County$4.3 Million
Manassas City$3.1 Million
TOTAL$128 Million

The LCI measures data that is over two years old. Fairfax County educates 20% of the state's children. Today's school system has 10,000 more children than the numbers used to rebenchmark the LCI this year. Other jurisdictions in the Commonwealth are losing student population while we are gaining. This decision is discriminatory.

Using a formula avoids the annual interjuridictions turf wars that this decision is creating. Ditching or freezing the formula is horrible public policy. It guarantees an annual war between the regions of this Commonwealth.

At my Town Meeting with Senator Puller this weekend, my constituents were livid about this. Someone actually asked me to introduce legislation proposing that Northern Virginia secede from the Commonwealth because they were so mad.

The irony is that when revenue was booming, the rest of the Commonwealth took more and more revenue from Fairfax County. When our real estate markets crater more than any other jurisdiction we get punished. This is situation is beyond outrageous. Someone who understands our region and this state would not affirm such a short-sighted policy decision.

On January 27, 2010, the Governor's Office is now stating that the decision to freeze the LCI is still under consideration. It's a good sign that it's not a done deal yet.


  1. I'm the co-leader of a school funding advocacy group (on FB: CPES Parents). We furious about the Governor's decision to uphold the LCI freeze and are wondering if there's anything we can do about this. We are strongly urging the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to take legal action. Is there anything else? We have your blog linked to our site - we appreciate your efforts for FCPS.

    Kristen Fennel

  2. I need to know more. Is this, as you say, limiting "new" funding to these school districts? If so, I say hurray. In today's economic times, no school district should be getting new funding.

    Can we really say that Fairfax has fully explored options other than "throw money at it"?

  3. To amcit - the LCI is designed to equalize school funding throughout the state, so that less-affluent school districts receive more state funding and more-affluent districts receive less. This seems fair. Northern VA ends up paying for the schools in the rest of the state - also fair, since all kids need schools. Fairfax County received 19% of its funding from the state last year compared to the state average of 48%. Northern VA schools have growing enrollment (in the thousands per year for Fairfax County); the rest of the state is seeing declining enrollment. Other options include cutting programs and increasing class sizes, both of which will happen regardless of whether or not we get the LCI adjusted. The rate of cuts would be less severe with the adjustment.