How Much Have We Lost?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Big Government Mandates From Richmond

Today, we had a lively debate on the House Floor regarding HB 1416. Among other things, this bill requires localities to spend at least 65% of their school budgets on instruction.

The floor sponsor, Delegate Loupassi from Richmond, said that Fairfax County spends 85% of its monies on instruction presently. I have not had a chance to check that, but it sounds about right.

The bill suffers from many defects. First, there are all kinds of definitions of "instructional spending" and it is not clear what constitutes "administrative costs." As the Chairman of the House Education Committee argued on the floor - do you count guidance counselors are instructional? What about Vice-Principals who do discipline? What about coaches who do the play productions or the debate coach? None of this is defined right now and we would be giving the State Board of Education to draw up the rules.

Fairfax County has a $2.2 billion school budget that is larger than the budgets of over three dozen countries, has a bus fleet larger than most localities, and deals with one of the most multi-national populations in the United States. Over-broad, one-sized fits all rules for the state that treats Fairfax County like all other jurisdictions - including jurisdictions with populations with as little as 40,000 people - can have unintended consequences.

The entire debate is ironic given that we have heard so much about big government mandates and the Governor's inaugural comments that government closest to the people knows best. From my point of view, while well-intentioned, this is not something Fairfax County Public Schools needs right now.

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