While the Washington Post ran one article about this (on B-3) last week, the Editorial Pages have been silent. Well at least The Roanoke Times is looking out for us.
HONOR THE SCHOOL FUNDING FORMULA
Even if it means Northern Virginia will
get more money this year at the expense of rural communities.
Virginia lawmakers, especially those from less affluent parts of the commonwealth, probably thought this year would never come. The school funding formula favors Northern Virginia. Though it will mean less money for the rest of the commonwealth, the formula should stand.
The controversial formula, called the composite index, determines how much money each locality receives from Richmond for K-12 education. It is supposed to distribute funds equitably. Communities that can afford to pay more for their own schools receive less assistance than economically distressed ones.
What that typically means is that Northern Virginia communities pay a larger percentage of their educational costs than most of the rest of the state.
That has long annoyed Northern Virginians and their representatives in the General Assembly, but the formula has stood. It rightly directs resources where they are most needed.
This year, a disastrous national economy and the collapse of the housing bubble are forging new territory. The formula says Northern Virginia deserves a greater slice of the available funds than it has received in the past because plunging property values have led to less local tax revenue.
Gov. Tim Kaine, before he left office, proposed suspending the formula this year. Not only would that prevent Northern Virginia from receiving its additional percentage, but it also would save $30 million in a state budget that must guard every dollar possible if it is to balance.
While we cannot fault Kaine for seeking such savings, Gov. Bob McDonnell and the General Assembly should not make this one of them.
The formula for years has been a compact between economically diverse parts of the state. Suspending it when Northern Virginia stands to benefit would be unfair and dishonorable. If bad economic times are sufficient justification, then the formula would only ever benefit rural areas and would no longer be equitable.
That would lend credence to the calls from Northern Virginia to eliminate the formula altogether, and that would be disastrous for the rest of the state.
If the formula is honored, localities throughout Southwest Virginia would receive less money for schools than they otherwise would have. No one ever said doing the right thing is always easy.