K – 12 State Budget Cuts Imminent

Brent Finnegan -- December 3rd, 2009

Senators Mark Obenshain and Emmett Hanger, and Del. Matt Lohr met with local officials and school administrators yesterday about the likelihood of state budget cuts for K – 12 education in January. The probability is high.

Jenny Jones reports in today’s DNR:

Representatives gave the school boards a forecast of the upcoming legislative session, which starts in about six weeks. During the session, legislators will be charged with creating a balanced 2010-12 biennial budget, which is projected to be short by anywhere from $2.8 billion to $3.6 billion, depending on the estimates.

Lohr and Obenshain indicated that they want to give the school boards more with less: more flexibility to decide how to spend less money.

Harrisonburg City Schools Superintendent Don Ford, who recently announced his retirement, voiced his frustration with the situation.

. . . Ford pointed out that employees in his division have banded together in these challenging times, but morale is going to go down if they have to go much longer without salary raises. And that, he said, will have a negative impact on the quality of education.

“We lost 16 positions this past year,” Ford said. “We’re past the point of trying to do more with less. We’re at the point of trying to decide can we do less with less.”

In an interview on TV3, Obenshain said, “. . . school boards across the state need to plan for the worst, hope for the best.”

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89 Responses to “K – 12 State Budget Cuts Imminent”

  1. republitarian says:

    Brooke, I agree with you 100%.

    Answer the question. Which is the Godliest place for a child to learn. Public, Private, Or home?

    I’m saying it is easier, in general, to raise the kids in a controlled environment. I’m speaking generally because that’s what the facts generally point to.

    I repeat, I’m not talking about the anecdotal hellion in private school and the perfect angel at a public school…. I AM SPEAKING OF THE AVERAGE.


    In your eyes, Megan and I have no right to educate our children because we have no certificate, but our kids will outscore the average kids their age because they are a year and a half ahead academically.

  2. Emmy says:

    Myron, the AVERAGE public school students isn’t a bad student nor do they grow up to be hellions. Just because home school has better statistics (on a much smaller amount of kids) doesn’t make the AVERAGE public school student bad.

    And did Brooke say Megan couldn’t educate your children properly because I missed that one.

    Oh and my public school kid is ahead a year and a half too, do I get a prize because he has yet to be swallowed up by the devilish school he goes to?

  3. E says:

    Regarding students who are home schooled and in private schools doing better on tests than students in public schools: I am interested in what percentage of students being home schooled or in private schools have a learning disability or intellectual disability of some kind. For public schools, these students’ test scores are counted in the average. If students being home schooled or one that goes to a private school, on average have higher IQs to start out with, then I would expect them to do better on tests. Likewise, I may expect a student with a disability to possibly do more poorly on the standardized tests. I know of a few parents that will send some of their children to private school (or homeschool them), but the child with a disability, they will send to public school because there is are free special education services for him or her. Also, since learning disabilities can run in families, parents of these children may have a disability themselves, which would make it less likely for them to home school or afford private school. That may play a part in the differences in test scores, right?

  4. republitarian says:

    You haven’t read the studies. Many people homeschool because their children are slow. Across the board, in general, and on the average, homeschool students score better because they don’t have distractions and they are treated individually by their parents.

  5. Brooke says:

    I don’t recall saying that either. But no, if you have received no training in education, particularly as the children get towards middle and high school, then you are not qualified, and ARE doing your child a disservice, IMHO.

    If you feel Megan is qualified and equipped, both educationally and emotionally to be a full-time teacher in addition to mothering, then cool for you. Go for it.

    Not all parents are equipped to handle the total education of their children at home. I know that I am not, and so I don’t. Sorry, my children are better off being taught. But what I am, and my husband is, qualified to do, is teaching our child the ways of the Lord and how to view and interact with the world in light of the grace and love of our Lord and the Gospel. And they are instructed in said matters not only at home, but also in church and Sunday School.

  6. Brooke says:

    Wait, I thought it was because they were so exceptional and the public schools hold them back?

    I totally get the individualized education angle. I really do. And if a child cannot thrive anywhere but home, I get teaching them at home. Some kids DON’T do well in a larger classroom. But that’s the exception, not the rule, and it’s still better to have children taught by people that thoroughly understand the subject material they are teaching, and are trained in teaching methods. Some homeschoolers are HIGHLY qualified and prepared to be excellent educators that prepare their children for further education. I’ve met them. Then there are others that aren’t.

  7. BANDIT says:

    There is more to it than “educational values” See my list again.
    I doubt we will change any one’s mind…..

  8. Jeremy Aldrich says:

    A few comments on the research:

    The NHERI study was conducted by a home school advocacy organization. It is not revealed how participants were selected and how representative they are of homeschoolers generally. In fact, only the most positive results of the study have even been released.

    The other study you mentioned, by Dr. Rudner (who by the way can’t be a professor at the ERIC Clearinghouse since the ERIC Clearinghouse is not a school but just a document collection) was also of a self-selected group. Here is the abstract: “This report presents the results of the largest survey and testing program for students in home schools to date. In Spring 1998, 20,760 K-12 home school students in 11,930 families were administered either the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) or the Tests of Achievement and Proficiency (TAP), depending on their current grade. The parents responded to a questionnaire requesting background and demographic information. Major findings include: the achievement test scores of this group of home school students are exceptionally high–the median scores were typically in the 70th to 80th percentile; 25% of home school students are enrolled one or more grades above their age-level public and private school peers; this group of home school parents has more formal education than parents in the general population; the median income for home school families is significantly higher than that of all families with children in the United States; and almost all home school students are in married couple families. Because this was not a controlled experiment, the study does not demonstrate that home schooling is superior to public or private schools and the results must be interpreted with caution. The report clearly suggests, however, that home school students do quite well in that educational environment.”

    A self-selected study is by its nature not a representative sample…it would be like polling only parents who take an active part in the PTA about public schools and then saying the results represent all public school families. If all the respondents were like Emmy and Brooke who have had positive experiences, it would not give a true picture of all public school parents and students…same for the studies you’re citing about homeschools.

    Notice also that in both studies that household income, level of parent education, and family intactness (2 parent families) were pointed to as important factors. To get a fair study, you would need to compare similar families in public, private, and homeschools. Same thing for your attempt at a cost analysis – the spending per pupil is average spending including facilities, salaries, special ed (which is enormously expensive), transportation, etc…do you factor all of that into your calculation of $500 per child per year?

  9. Lowell Fulk says:


    The data to formulate the study you cite is almost twenty years old and is dependent upon those in the private world of education effort actively participating with the collection of such data. The world has changed greatly from an educational perspective during the past two decades. Just as broad brush generalizations are unfair and inaccurate when making assumptions regarding public school performance and outcomes, so also would they be in assessing the performance and outcomes of homeschools.

    All public school data is available for study and comparison, but only data from parents of privately schooled and homeschooled students whose parents believe their experiment in education to be a success is likewise available. The failures are not similarly recorded and documented as is the requirement with public schools.

    I’d ask again, which standardized tests are being used for your comparisons?

    I’d also ask this, do you feel that someone is now working to attempt to take your freedom to homeschool your children away? Or are you sensing that the results of this year’s state election provide you with the opportunity to gain financially from tax credits and vouchers using public funds for private educational efforts? Are you feeling persecuted, or sensing opportunity?

    This much I know for sure, a child is only a child once. We only get one attempt…
    I fully support those who do a good job in preparing children for a productive and enjoyable life, and oppose those for whom an education of other people’s children is to them is simply a burden they care not to bear. My children’s future is inexorably intertwined with the children of everyone else. So it is in my selfish interest, to attempt at least to insure that the peers my children will have in their adult society will be competent and capable and of good character. I want the society my children, and their children, will step into to be as good as I can possibly help to cultivate. This is what I have worked toward for some now twenty years. A rising tide and all that… Good and competent efforts by those who homeschool, who use private schools, and who direct public schools, all contribute toward that end.

  10. BANDIT says:

    You should of been elected both times you ran for office. Seriously, you are kind, intelligent and full of wisdom that our Public could benefit from. I hope you don’t quit trying to make our lives better….Lowell Fulk, Thank you!

  11. Renee says:

    There is also the causation vs correlation argument. I would guess that homeschool families aren’t as diverse (economically, racially, educationally, etc.) as the public school population. It’s not really an apples to apples comparison.

    I don’t have a particular opinion on homeschooling, and like Brooke, I think the outcome relies heavily on the qualifications of the parent doing the teaching as well as the personality of the child. I’m sure there are good and bad results of homeschooling just like in any school.

    But the real question is…. should it ever be OK for the state to cut funding to schools as much as it has until the teachers are struggling? The vast majority of people in our society go to public school, and these are the people who will be working, teaching, and leading in our future. However, our country is falling behind in many subjects in international test comparisons.

    Education seems like it should be our most important investment since everything else relies on it.

  12. Lowell Fulk says:

    Whether or not people recognize the fact Renee, education is indeed the most important investment a society can secure to the benefit of its own future…

  13. republitarian says:

    I’m not saying that we don’t need public schools. I have no problem using tax dollars to educate children who come from less than stellar circumstances. Homeschooling has only become in the last 20 years because of the conditions in many public schools. Last night, in a PSA, I heard Obama say that the national average for graduation rates is 70%. Our area is probably much higher, but in many areas it is much lower.

    All children will have problems, but those problems are being multiplied by irresponsible parents, lack of funds, and a what appears to be a race towards the gutter(music, TV).

    But they get the best athletic fields possible…and that is what’s important!

  14. Dave Briggman says:

    Yes, Lowell, but government school education only teaches children what GOVERNMENT wants them to know. In this case it’s a cross between what “W” wanted them to know under “No Child Left Behind” and the left-leaning ideals many — if not most— teachers hold to be true.

  15. Emmy says:

    Myron, I’m not real sure what your beef with athletic fields is these days but it’s obvious you don’t see many of them if you think all schools in this area have the best. I’ve been on a number of them all over the place and there are quite a few that are barely able to be played on. So, you might want to find a new argument.

  16. republitarian says:

    Well, if some are barely playable then a tax should be leveled immediately to bring these playing facilities up to snuff. Having our precious children play on substandard fields is unacceptable. No less than a million should be spent on every playing field!!!!

  17. Brooke says:

    What is the source of this “athletic field” bee in your bonnet?

  18. republitarian says:

    The fields being built at the old HHS.

  19. BANDIT says:

    Those are JMU fields, not high school fields. The funding for JMU fields and other JMU projects was discussed and clarified when you brought them up before. Those fields have nothing to do with public schools, or pubic school budgets. As Emmy pointed out, go to the area high school athletic facilities … some practice fields resemble those cow pastures you spoke of. Should your children decide to go to college after their home studies are complete, they too will be exposed the excesses of college life .. academic, athletic and social. They will be a part of the great mixing bowl of life … that is where they really draw off of life lessons to help them. The socially sheltered child may be overwhelmed and easily influenced.

  20. republitarian says:

    You don’t think the new HHS sports complex is excessive?

    Maybe donors to JMU should have their money directed to tuition assistance?

  21. Emmy says:

    Myron donors give to what they want to give. If it’s specified to go to sports, that’s where it has to go.

    While I’m not an athlete and don’t care to watch any sport my own child isn’t playing in, I’m not going to complain about kids playing sports with the childhood obesity rate being what it is.

    The complex and the new HHS is adequate not over the top by any means. The complex JMU is building has nothing to do with this subject at all, but is a good use of an existing space and is likely to bring more people to this town to spend money.

  22. Brooke says:

    What Emmy said.

  23. Dany Fleming says:

    Repub – just like you, I worry about the lessons my kids are learning at school – both in and out of the classroom. However, I still don’t follow where your arguments are going – other than that most folks are naive and/or incompetent.

    It seems clear that you think schools are filled with morally deficient kids who are steering “good” kids in the wrong direction. It seems most parents – to which you give little credit – find the public schools pretty worthwhile.

    In your moral measurements, I’d have to think that teachers rank pretty high as a group. It certainly can’t be corporate
    America and Wall St. Yet corporate America is rewarded handsomely and teachers struggle. Who else, other than teachers and our public schools should be charged with this amazingly important responsibility?

    You say you support public education – our collective responsibility for helping children. For children in bad circumstances, where else can they turn? Our schools are the primary place where we provide a way out for them. I believe it’s the highest moral obligation of this country.

    Jane Addams, a revolutionary child advocate in the 1900’s once said “kids don’t fail programs, programs fail kids.” That’s certainly happening too often in our public and private schools.

    If you want to argue that the fixation on multiple choice standards testing is strangling teacher’s ability to develop critical thinking skills in kids – then I’m with you, buddy. Of course, the multiple choice testing debacle, is very different than the standards of learning that teachers have rightly developed. (teachers being a group with a relatively good moral compass).

    BTW – the current testing took off in Texas. A corporate guy named Ross Perot (I’m sure you’ve heard of him)led the charge. Big textbook companies quickly saw the big profits to be made. Those CEO’s followed their buddy George Bush to the White House and successfully lobbied (paid off) to make their “accountability” plan the new education system. Of course, the democrats certainly rolled right over to the corporate pressure, as well.

    What’s happening in schools is not some lefty, government conspiracy. It’s the result of corporate America thinking they know best how to test and measure the development of children. Of course, that includes a nice little profit for them.

    If you want to fight for a better – or more moral – society then don’t bash teachers and public schools – get behind them and help them do their job better Get corporate America out of our classrooms and out of our legislator’s pockets.

    Whatever moral decline you see is not from our “government” teachers and “government” schools. Our “market” system has found out there’s good profit in kids and they’ve worked their way in – there’s the epicenter of your decline.

    I’d love to hold our teacher’s accountable for better results. It doesn’t work if we ask them to lift more and then tie one hand behind their back. The corporate mentality of kids as an “educational widget” on the assembly line needs to be taken on. It’s not liberals or educators or big government that’s prospering that idea. Providing better resources (and pay) to teachers is a good start, though.

  24. republitarian says:

    I think teachers are the folks who should get the last share of the blame.

    If anyone thinks that morality has not declined in the last 20 years then they are not willing to take responsibility for the seeing the obvious.

    The facts are that over the last 20 years, educational performance has DROPPED against other industrialized countries. Many of the children have been passed through, some not even knowing how to read or do basic math. The larger schools get, the harder it is to keep track of students.

    Bob Stoops, head coach football coach of Oklahoma is set to make a mere 31 million dollars in just a couple of years.

    Emmy, it is one thing to play sports and be active, but state schools spend hundreds of billions of dollars on sports… some priorities, LIKE LEARNING, are being neglected….

    You just said yourself that people like watching sports….well, apparently , they like them way to much to the point of being obsessed….

    Most disadvantaged children will never make a living playing sports, so why are the schools spending so much money in athletic programs?

  25. Lowell Fulk says:

    On this I am in agreement with Myron, and we have spoken about this at some length.

    America’s obsession with sports is a sad puzzle to me as well. Folks will wail at the thought of paying an extra $40.00 to $50.00 per year in gas tax to help keep our roads and bridges maintained, and yet have no second thoughts about paying $90.00 per ticket to see the Redskins play the Cowboys. The real irony is that they’ll be driving over the roads and riding the metro, all the while complaining about the crowding and traffic and potholes etc…

    And this is before we even get to the education of our children. The amount of money spent on athletics at the high school level in public schools is really quite small. I can not speak to the amount spent at the university level.

  26. Emmy says:

    As a person who cannot stand most sports and thinks professional sports are about the most disgusting display of money being given to the wrong people you won’t get any argument from me that the money needs to be put toward education and not athletics.

    But, the point that you missed is that if the donors give they money and request that it be used for athletics, then there isn’t much you can do, you have to put that money where they want it to go. So your attack should be on people obsessed with sports and not the school who uses the money the way they have to use it.

    However, this again is generally on the university level like Lowell said and not on the K-12 level which is what we’re talking about. After high school you can choose a school that puts the emphasis where you want it.

  27. Dany Fleming says:

    I agree with you both. I love sports and am a lifelong athlete. It also takes a disproportionate share of our school’s attention. That’s our culture..

    No doubt, sports and rec. are huge in helping kid’s learn and be healthy. However, the arts, debate, engineering, etc. activities need to be elevated in the same way – not cut. Those extra-curricular things are becoming more available for kids. Though, again, the better resourced the school, the more other options there are. Sports glorification certainly needs to be toned-down; academic glorification needs to be ramped up.

    Repub – you’re absolutely right; other countries have by-passed us. The TIMSS testing of 20 years ago is what sounded the national alarm. The U.S. response was to blame teachers and impose the current high-stakes testing system (a business-led response). Other countries invested heavily in education and adapted new strategies for teaching and learning (an educator-led response). We see the results. I guess we can take pride in knowing Oklahoma could kick Oxford’s butt on the grid iron.

    Of course, it’s not state or federal dollars that subsidize sports so heavily. It’s local dollars and local spending decisions.

    Repub – I agree with you again (imagine that!), large schools pose a problem. Breaking large urban schools into smaller schools was my job and I saw some of the benefits. However, I also know that some of the best schools in the country (and VA) are large schools that are successfully dealing with “kids falling through the cracks.” Of course, those are properly resourced schools which think creatively.

    THIS BRINGS US BACK TO THE ORIGINAL STORY – kids, parents, communities are struggling. Schools represent our strongest investment for that (including increasing our almost “non-existent” pre-school investment).

    You can shout about how they spend our money and hawkishly watch their budgets. But schools make the “tiny” investment they get stretch better than almost any other sector. Super. Ford is not bluffing that they will be forced to do “less with less.”

  28. republitarian says:

    Aren’t they tearing down perfectly stands to watch football games in here at JMU, while the employees go without raises?

    Our children know where our priorities are by the ways in which the adults spend money.

    I think Lowell explained our current situation perfectly with the gas tax and watching a Redskins game example.

    Sex is used to sell every type of product and that’s why our children are more sexually active then ever. Underage drinking is skyrocketing and there’s almost no reason why a 5 year old needs a cell phone. We are completely self absorbed…..with our bad selves……

    It is failure on every level…..

  29. Brooke says:

    Myron, speaking as the spouse of someone who hasn’t gotten a cost of living raise in a while, and won’t again for another couple of years, at the earliest, salaries, wages, and raises, for the vast majority of JMU employees (classified, non-faculty positions) can only be funded with money from the State, designated for that purpose. Building and Improvement moneys are funded entirely separately and cannot be used for anything but that. So they’re not taking money away from the employees to do this.

  30. Dany Fleming says:

    Brooke – but can’t the state decide to allocate those building funds earmarked for the stadium to more academic budget items? Don’t you think the decision is a reflection on priorities? Maybe it’s just a perceived reflection. But I’d say perception is pretty important here.

    What do you tell paying students who now get a grad. assistant instructor while they watch new sky-boxes being built? (though, JMU is a good exception to the GA teaching tend)

    Expand the stadium; but only when you’re able to plug gaps on the academic side.

  31. Brooke says:

    Private funds donated for a building project, or a certain program must be used for that purpose. For state money, I beleive once the money has been earmarked for a certain project, I do not think they can be re-allocated for something else. Perhaps Mr. Perrine could chime in to corroborate or correct that, though?

    But I do agree with you in that, where priorities can be better set, they should. And while sport programs do bring recognition, and therefore donor monies to the school, they shouldn’t be at the expense of academic programs, if they, in fact, are.

  32. Lowell Fulk says:


    Are you familiar with the “First in the World Consortium”?

  33. Dany Fleming says:

    Lowell – before moving back to H’burg, we were living in Evanston, IL, one of the 15-20 FiW districts. Also, I worked with a U of Chicago consortium of schools that was connected with FiW. Leaving the Evanston district was a tough choice – they also had a successful Dual Language program.

    FiW is very cool. Of course, it’s in the wealthiest of suburbs and they don’t mess around with funding their schools. Our property taxes were high – but then the schools are amazing and those kids have a bee line to the best colleges. Though, by no means, are all FiW school kids well-to-do. However, like I’ve mentioned before, those districts take care of all the kids ($15,000-$22,000+/student)

    There are lots of things I think could apply around here from the FiW lessons. First, those districts established University partnerships and went after grant money. H’burg/Rockingham could absolutely take better advantage of JMU. We have a top-notch Ed School in our backyard that’s willing and able to partner, yet JMU often has to go elsewhere in search of a willing partner. Clarke County, always near the top in the country, took an offer and is certainly happy and reaping the benefits.

    FiW schools and teachers meet and collaborate – they’ve built it in. They understand that teacher isolation is a problem.

    The schools there were already good (the schools here are also relatively good). But they shot for world-class status. They trusted that the students could achieve it. Pushing our kids – not bashing them – is what makes it work.

    They go after and pay high-caliber teachers and leaders. We’re about to bring in a new Super in H’burg. We need to look and recruit far and wide and be willing to bring in that sort of leadership – it pays off. Most of those districts pay for good national Education head hunters. There’s a lot of positives to market about this place and we could fetch a top-notch leader. It’s a big task for the school board.

    The math curriculum many FiW districts use is “Everyday Math” developed by U of Chicago. It’s demanding for teachers, but I’d love to see schools here use it. Though, EMS/EMHS uses it.

    I have no doubt that the same results could be achieved in this area. Much to your buddy Dave’s chagrin, I also know that Obama and Sec of Ed Arne Duncan are extremely familiar with FiW. Duncan has hired several folks connected with FiW.

    Finding that shows a great and inquisitive eye on your part, Lowell. By chance, I just happened to live and work there – so I know it. I agree with Bandit – you should be in leadership around here.

  34. Curious says:

    Anyone associated with Harrisonburg public schools will be able to tell you about all the fundraisers they are trying to pull off, and how much more they would like to accomplish. Does the “do more with less” policy mean that an even higher percentage of student, parent, and teacher time will be spent working to make cash for the schools? Does this translate into a work house situation down the road? There is one word no one seems to want to discuss in political circles: infrastructure. No healthy system of government or society can exist without a well funded, managed, and planned infrastructure. Whether you like it or not this includes roads, schools, health care (as opposed to insurance), emergency services (fire, police, etc.), garbage, sewer, electric grids, water, etc. Without it, we fare no better than a third world country.

  35. BANDIT says:

    Curious, sometimes life isn’t all “cookies and cream”, people have to pitch in and help make the world go round. Is it fun? NO! Are we in a survival mode? YES!…. This even takes place with homeschooling, when families feel the pinch, too. It’s kinda like running a farm where the parents make their children do a lot of the chores.

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