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. Renee says:

    It’s really bad that the education budgets keep getting cut. It doesn’t make sense – this seems like one of the most important things to invest in!

  2. Dany Fleming says:

    Not properly funding our K-12 schools is the single biggest mistake we make in this country. Super. Ford is right, schools have continuously been asked to do more with less. Children – and predominantly poor children – are constantly pushed down the funding priority list. This is absolutely one of the biggest moral issues we face.

    Our local legislators have plenty of issues they fight for passionately: Education – giving our children the resources and best chance to become informed, productive citizens – does not appear high on that list.

    The arguments about “trimming the fat” are baseless – this is trying to squeeze blood from a turnip. What other government department has their budget, salaries, expenditures and revenues so openly diced, sliced and debated? What other system has to constantly supplement their budget with bake sales, chocolate sales (by the kids, no less), picking the pockets of parents, begging for supply donations? Nowhere is spending and results more transparent than at our K-12 schools.

    Ironically, this story appears just below the story about the richest counties in the country. It’s ironic because the majority of education funding comes through our local government (cities and counties). The “richest” places provide more dollars per kid to their schools; the poorest places provide less dollars per kid to their schools. There is nothing equitable about how we educate our kids.

    I’m all for holding schools accountable for their funding and work. Money alone is not the answer to helping schools become better. However, I’m also sure that without the proper funds, they are being set-up to fail.

    For those who think that privatizing (“vouchering”) our public education system is the answer. Do we really want an education system that works like our health care system? If so, add another “0” to the end of every Superintendent salary. Get ready for top education CEO’s to have multi-million dollar bonus’ and golden parachutes. Get ready to have schools reject students who don’t help maximize their profits or who pull down their school scores. Watch special-needs kids become the new “pre-existing condition” kids in education.

    Do we really trust “the market” to properly educate all our children – no exception? Is the value we want to place on our kids as an “educational commodity?”

    ….and if you think this housing market shake-up was crazy, this will seem like a tremor to the earthquake in privatizing education. Property values in the richest and most exclusive school districts will sky-rocket even more. Schools in poor districts will go bankrupt.

    The investment in education is pennies on the hundreds of dollars. Let’s put our dollars towards school incentives, not big business incentives. Let’s see corporate execs. begging and holding bake sales and buying their own office supplies.

  3. dan says:

    Dany–very well said. Remember when President Obama proposed to increase the defense budget at a lower rate than previous years and he was widely denounced as soft-on-terror? It says a lot about our society that it is unacceptable to decrease military spending (we already spend more than everybody else combined) but education cuts are considered unfortunate necessities.

    These are our priorities at work.

  4. Lowell Fulk says:

    The whole “do more with less” mantra has been a Valley Legislative slogan regarding Public Education since the mid 90’s.

    Senator Hanger is the only Valley Legislator who in my experience is truly supportive of Public Education.

  5. blondiesez says:

    Our local legislators have believed so long in doing so much wtih so few for so little that I fear soon they’ll expect the Commonwealth to do everything with no one for nothing.

    Or maybe that’s do nothing for no one for nothing. Either way, eventually you have to spend money to make money — i.e., investing in the future workforce (education) or other non-tangible things that make the Commonwealth a strong contender for economic development (good roads and infrastructure, for example).

  6. We know Lohr’s not really supportive of government education…he only managed to have a 40% attendance rate at school board meetings and the 26th District has been dumb enough to elect him, not one, but THREE times.

    We deserve the lack of representation we have…now, everyone put away your novelty lighters before he sees them.

  7. republitarian says:

    Dave, it was 60%.

  8. seth says:

    “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.”

    does anyone know whether this refers to employees not getting their scheduled 200 day pay scale increases, or if it’s just that they haven’t gotten a cost of living adjustment?

  9. seth says:

    (on an unrelated note, i just realized that 40k starting salary for a 22 year old is actually somewhere in the neighborhood of 52k when you factor in the benefits package)

  10. seth, I believe that neither the City, nor the County schools got either raises or COLA increases….to the contrary, notwithstanding the passage of the $600,000 meals tax in the County, County teachers actually lost money because of the increases in the already-crappy insurance the employees pay for.

    And the $40K starting salary is for 10 MONTH contracts…add two more months to most salaries and you have their TRUE salaries.

  11. Dany Fleming says:

    Lowell – Sen. Hanger has shown support and leadership on public education issues. Though, his solutions are not very compelling or consistent to me. They seem to be fairly standard party talk (a fair difference in politics and not commitment).

    Virginia is in the top 1/3 in per pupil spending nationally. We move to the bottom 1/3 when regionally adjusted. The “best’ districts in the state spend between $13,000 – $18,000/student (mostly in NOVA); Harrisonburg around $11,700/student; Rockingham Co around $9,700/student. Without a doubt, college admissions counselors rank the schools in this same spending order.

    Before folks go crazy about all the $$ NOVA gets, understand this: Those districts pay over 80% of their own costs through their local taxes; Harrisonburg pays about 60% of its costs; Rockingham pays less than 40%. The feds pay less than 10% of our education. State taxes covers the rest – about 55% in the case of Rockingham Co. (remember those numbers as NOVA makes their transportation $$ requests)

    If these are irrelevant numbers to you, then know this: wealthy school districts take care of themselves. They ante-up for their schools and their kids reap the benefits (and better colleges). The poorer districts take a double hit – the state cuts their funding and locals don’t want to ante-up more revenues for their own kids.

    So, not only are we trying to do “more with less” around here, the gap between us and the “best” districts (our kid’s competition) will get bigger. Their property values will do just fine – market forces at work. You should be able to figure out the long-term economic results.

    Our legislators should be fighting to keep our education investment in-tact – adequate from the state and more locally. Suggesting we spend more efforts to support “traditional families” (as Sen Hanger suggests) is not an education fix prioritynor even a job of educators.

    Seth, the slack teacher work year is a myth – teacher work hours/year are in line with other professionals.

  12. seth says:

    good info dany, thanks for that.

    in terms of the slack teacher work year myth, i didn’t bring it up, but when i’ve done cursory checks on those numbers, it looks like teachers would have to work 10 hour days, every one of their working days of the year (all half days, parent teacher conference days, etc) in order to work the equivalent of a year round, 40 hour work week.

  13. blondiesez says:

    Seth, I’d bet that when all the ‘off-the-clock’ work is factored in (grading, lesson plans, etc), it wouldn’t be too hard for most teachers to put in the equivalent of a 40 hour work week.

  14. republitarian says:

    Man, this is funny. People over at my site are saying that public education is better than homeschooling and private schools…….

  15. Well I can’t speak for every teacher, but I entered the field because of the respect I get from students and the public.

    Teachers are required to have more education, take on more personal liability and responsibility, receive fewer benefits, and expected to take part in more “off the clock” work than any other $40-$50k job I know of. The contracts for teachers probably do look pretty sweet to someone on the outside, but there’s a reason that teacher unions in other states find it effective to protest by “working to contract” and not beyond.

    Teaching has its benefits, of course, too – many of them are intangible. But there are plenty of reasons that turnover is so high in public education.

  16. I forgot that when you use angle brackets it doesn’t show up in the comment…it should have said “I entered the field because of the respect I get from students and the public. (close captioned for the sarcasm impaired)”

  17. educator says:

    Why do we continue to use the system in the schools that says “we have to spend it now, even though you don’t need it, or we’ll lose it” rationale? Now the many years of following this policy has finally caught up with us. The schools do waste money for stuff that isn’t really needed and then stuff that is needed, isn’t gotten because the money has already been spent. Spending more money doesn’t make children educated. It’s what you do with the resources you already have and the teahers are what makes a school system. I am sick of the out of sight salaries for the supervisory personnel that just occupy a chair!

  18. republitarian says:

    Dear Bandit,

    You have no idea what you are talking about on all accounts. Furthermore, it is well known fact that the average homeschooling student does better than the average public student simply because the homeschooling student has more attention given to them. You can always find the exception to the rule, but that’s only the exception.

    BTW, have you been filing any false complaints to state agencies lately?

  19. BANDIT says:

    How do they develop socializing skills with no other children around? Is athleticism being taught at home as well? These things are important also…..wouldn’t you agree?

  20. Greg says:

    Bandit, you apparently don’t know anything about homeschooling. It doesn’t mean the kids are locked up at home and only see their parents for 8 hours a day. It’s easy to find groups of homeschooling families in any area where the parents get together to plan field trips and other group activities for the kids. I know older homeschoolers who get together in small music groups. There’s alot more to homeschooling that just reading books and doing homework in the confines of a home.

  21. BANDIT says:

    Homeschooling negatives

    1. With homeschooling you are removing yourself from the common experience of society.
    2. Some talented athletes require a school to achieve their potential (I am thinking football mostly).
    3. Homeschooling is difficult without solid support (at least in my experience — the quality of the local co-op/support group makes a big difference).
    4. You will be misunderstood and constantly have to defend your decision. You may even be criticized within homeschooling circles for curriculum choice etc.
    5. Lack of peer competition. In some cases groups have less children of one age group than another.
    6. Socializing (as opposed to socialization) – This is a practical problem for some families whether anyone wants to admit it or not.
    7. Unexpected costs – For example, in our case this is the necessity to drive to most group functions resulting in high gas costs.
    8. Access to high end lab equipment is easier in a school situation.
    9. A Stanford professor who studied homeschooling determined lack of access to different teaching styles and viewpoints as his main criticism of homeschooling.
    10. Dealing with curfew and truancy laws
    11. Cost and access to good music and art lessons
    12. One article I read cited the necessity of a parent staying home as a negative because of loss of income
    13. Failed expectations in terms of the amount of time required to perform adequate instruction with some children
    14. Failed expectations in terms of progress also becomes a burden
    15. State and legal requirements can often be a burden especially in terms of documentation
    16. Friction is often encountered if one should need/desire to enter the public school system for any reason after homeschooling
    17. Housework becomes a lower priority. In some homes it is to be expected that it will not retain that museum like quality
    18. I have heard homeschooling graduates complain about the amount of time spent with their parents.
    19. I have heard homeschooling graduates complain about gaps in their education stemming from mistakes by their parents (curriculum choice etc)
    20. All of us have heard of parents who had no business educating their children.
    21. Interpersonal relationships do not cease in a homeschooling environment. You will find disagreeable people (bullies even) in a group

  22. Emmy says:

    I’m in an education class this semester because I thought I might want to teach. After one class I can tell you that there isn’t enough money to make me want to teach. I can promise you that every one of the teachers my sons have had since they started school more than earn their salaries and there is a special place in heaven for elementary school teachers!

    Honestly, I think I would love working with the children, but the things they have to put up with from parents and the amount of their life that teaching consumes (because it does NOT end at 3:00) makes anyone who enters the profession a saint in my eyes. They deserve more money, not less!

  23. BANDIT says:

    Another bad thing from home schooling is…well, is it possible for the children to be smarter than their parent/teacher? If not, that could be a scary thing.

    Do you all like the snow? MERRY CHRISTMAS!

  24. Please remember the following:
    – Talking negatively in public about the private lives of private citizens is an unkind thing to do, and is unwelcome behavior on this community news blog…especially when it is negative talk about someone else’s kid.
    – We ask that people limit themselves to a single screen name and a legitimate email address.
    – If you have a personal problem with another commenter, please take it up with them privately and spare us all the drama.
    – Stick to the topic.

  25. republitarian says:

    Jeremy, if we are staying on topic the remove all of Benny’s lies about homeschooling.

  26. Jeremy Aldrich says:

    Myron, you brought up homeschooling. This is a thread about K-12 education, so it fits fine.

    Personally, I am glad there are lots of schooling options for families. I attended a Christian school for one year in first grade and it was a great boost for my early education. I also worked for a few months as a long-term sub at a decent private school with mediocre academics but a very nurturing and spiritual environment. I also attended numerous public schools and some were great while some were terrible. I am fortunate to work at a public school with more positives than negatives. My brother had a mix of public, private, and homeschooling and many of my relatives homeschooled…again, mixed results depending on a lot of factors other than just the type of school.

  27. Yes, there are quite a few comments in moderation now. Cool it, people. No personal attacks.

  28. republitarian says:

    Well, I went to Harrisonburg City schools, Carlsbad City Schools,Turner Ashby, and EMHS…..and look how bad I turned out!

    I would never put my kids through that nightmare!

  29. I suppose technically, I went to 12 different schools before graduating from BHS, if you count home school for one year.

    I went to equal parts public and private schools, and it really didn’t matter to me at the time. School was school, and I hated school. With the exception of a few teachers at BHS that I really liked, it wasn’t until college that I actually wanted to learn, and enjoyed it.

    Sadly, two of the teachers I really liked at BHS are no longer teaching (not to my knowledge, anyway). I believe Mr. Harrell retired, and Mr. Scheikl is doing IT work for the county school system. I don’t know if that’s because of wage issues or something else, but Scheikl was relatively young when I was in his class.

  30. Emmy says:

    Well Myron, you have the option to not put them through that “nightmare” so it’s good that you’re using it.

    Not everyone has that choice, or believes it’s a nightmare. I love the school my children go to now, and I loved the one they went to prior to that and both were public. They are far from a nightmare.

  31. Dany Fleming says:

    Repub – I believe a quote from you is “parents are enablers who lack the wisdom to properly discipline their children.” You rail about bad parenting being the problem. Yet, you continue to trash and fault the schools you went to and hold them accountable for how you “turned out.”

    I don’t know you from boo and I’m not trying to attack you personally, but you’re arguments are just finger pointing anywhere and everywhere. They’re often contradictory – apparently, pointing a finger where ever it’s most convenient to continue an argument and not solve anything.

    Jeremy, I agree with you that schools are absolutely more positive than not. I also imagine that most teachers are the first to raise their hands to offer ways to improve education. Teachers (and administrators) know most of the problems and would love the chance to put into practice what they’ve learned and what they know works.

    Constant pressure for testing results is a barrier to that. However, having the tools and resources constantly slashed (the ones available in the best schools) is a huge obstacle as well.

    In the public vs. private vs. home school debate, let’s put a little context into this. It’s kind of like a doctor who only takes healthy patients who can pay cash and then says “look what great results I have.” Then looking at doctors who treat everyone regardless of their ability to pay, healthy and sick, and saying “why aren’t your results like that other doctor’s?”.

  32. republitarian says:

    Dany, obviously you are correct in that it is not fair to compare public vs. homeschoolers vs. private schools because public schools have to take all children.

    Many people choose to homeschool because their kids are exceptional students who would be held back in a public school. Others choose to homeschool because they’re children have learning challenges or emotional challenges.

    The influences in the average public school are influences a 14 year old should not be subjected to…..

    The reality is,whether fair or not, is that your children spend time and are influenced by people who may not share the same values and beliefs….

  33. E says:

    It was mentioned earlier on the comments that teachers would have to work 10 hour days to make up for the breaks and summer vacations to equal a 40 hour work week. I may be a little biased when I say this though, as I am a speech therapist in the county and my husband is a teacher in the city. We both often are there well before and after school. We both show up 30-45 minutes before school and are consistently there 2 hours after school ends. I attend meetings after school (faculty, committee, student study, IEPs, etc) 3 days a week and I see students after school 2 days a week(who don’t attend the school) because I don’t have enough time in my day to see them. My husband also stays after school because of the lack of sufficient planning time teachers get at the elementary level. Many teachers also go in on the weekends to do everything we need to do. When we both come home, it does not end then either… we still have things to do for our school day and for the students all of the time. We are always asked/required to participate in PTA functions, school fundraisers, “Art Night”, clubs, etc which happen after school hours.
    I do love my job – mostly for the students and seeing what they get out of everything, but I do feel the need to defend all teachers when it is said that we have an 8-3 job where we get summers off and “boy do they have it easy”. I know all of the above isn’t true for all teachers, but for many that I know in this area, it is what happens.
    Also, no, neither of us had any pay raises, cost of living raises, and actually in my case, the county is paying less for our health insurance (so I get less in my check than last year), and our benefits actually got worse in health insurance. I don’t mean to complain about this too much, because I know many people who are jobless and I really am happy with the way the county and city worked hard to keep as many jobs as they could.
    Thanks for letting me give my point of view!

  34. Brooke says:

    Speaking as the parent of a child who attends public school, I really don’t feel that his education has been held back in ANY way or hindered by being in the public school system. He’s already been identified as being gifted and is given mayn opportunities to excel through in-school activities designed for the “exceptional” student.

    Besides, the whole “have to take everyone” rationale sounds dangerously close to not wanting your child around people different than you. I’m sorry, but as Christians (which I know you are), we’re called to be salt and light, Myron. IN the world, but not OF it. That includes interacting with all different kinds of kids – smart, not so smart, well off, not so well off, kids whose first language is English, kids for whom English is a 2nd or even 3rd language, kids who are from Christian homes and kids who are NOT from Christian homes, kids from 2 parent families and kids from broken homes and rough backgrounds. I don’t think we can truly be salt and light and *truly* teach our kids to be salt and light while shielding them from anything other than people just like ourselves.

    The key is making sure that public schools and peers aren’t the only influence.

  35. republitarian says:

    Every parent I’ve ever met who sends their kids to government schools thinks their children get a great “free” education.

    God does not ask us to put our kids in the most wicked situation possible. While a young person can be a witness of the Gospel to others, most often they succumb to the never ending assault of evil.

    “Bad company corrupts good character.”

  36. Brooke says:

    Well, I certainly was not corrupted by my public school experience. *shrug* Guess it all comes back to how the parents are raising the kids at home, like you said. ;-) And public school, while certainly not the most pious of places, is not remotely “the most wicked situation possible.” Not by a long shot.

  37. Emmy says:

    Thank you Brooke.

    Public school are no where near the most wicked situation possible and for you to suggest that when some kids really do live in horrible and wicked conditions is pretty appalling.

  38. BANDIT says:

    They should pass a law that requires parents, who want to home school their children, to be certified in some way, form or fashion.

  39. Emmy says:

    “Every parent I’ve ever met who sends their kids to government schools thinks their children get a great “free” education. ”

    Oh perhaps that’s because it’s true!

  40. Emmy says:

    Bandit, there are plenty of parents who are very well qualified to teach their children at home without certification. Standards are very high in home school curriculum.

    But standards for public school are also very high.

    I wouldn’t argue in favor of doing away with home school or presume to know if someone is qualified. But I do argue that public school education, while it does have flaws, is a good education.

  41. republitarian says:

    Yes, Emmy, public education is a good education…..BUT, studies and test scores PROVE that homeschool and private school kids in general IS THE BEST.

    Brooke, you said that public schools were not the most wicked place for a child to learn. Remember the Bible instructs us to teach our children the ways of righteousness and raise them in fear and admonition of the Lord. That is hard to do when they go somewhere else for 8 hours a day and learn the exact opposite. There are 3 places for a child to learn. Private school, homeschool, and public school….Which place would provide the child with the optimal conditions to learn what is Godly?

  42. Lowell Fulk says:

    Homeschoolers in Virginia who use a religious exemption to remove their children from public schools do not have educational standards that they are required to meet.

    State law was changed in the recent past to allow people who had graduated high school to be considered qualified to teach outside of the public school realm instead of holding a college degree. But again, religious exemption bypasses even this rudimentary requirement of qualification.

    I have been witness to families who provided their children with outstanding education at home, and I have also witnessed situations where the children were harmed terribly, and in all likelihood, irreparably, by the homeschooling parent(s).

  43. Lowell Fulk says:

    Which test scores are you using for comparison Myron?

  44. Emmy says:

    OK Myron, we get it. You do what’s best for your children and all the rest of us are satisfied with the sub-standard. Blah blah blah.

  45. Lowell Fulk says:

    I also posted the following on Myron’s site:

    I actually believe that there is a societal renaissance occurring which is being led by some no small number of outstanding young people who are very forward thinking and responsible.

    I believe strongly in public education’s mission, the jobs our teachers are accomplishing, and in the outcomes our system is achieving.

    I am distressed by the fact that many of the programs of educational improvement I helped to put into place during my tenure as a school board member are now set for the ax. Early intervention is one of the most effective methods of insuring educational success, especially for at risk children.

    I believe that our society is indeed under constant bombardment by unhealthy messages which are pulling people in detrimental directions, but this is the result of the blind pursuit of greed at the expense of society. These are influences which we must work to counter, and the public schools work to accomplish that goal in conjunction with parents, family, centers of worship, and other community building organizations.

    I am heartened with many of the efforts I see taking place, and remain confident that those who are willing to work for a better tomorrow are by far in the majority as opposed to those who only see doom…

  46. republitarian says:

    I would start here.


    Government studies also prove the same thing.

    Lowell is correct. Some parents have abused homeschooling and not served their children well and that is just as shameful as the kids who are not served well by public schools.

    We homeschool under the religious exemption and neither of us are certified, but according to studies, our children will do better than if we sent them to a public school.

    The crowd here usually believes government studies….except when it doesn’t suit them…….

  47. republitarian says:

    The last piece of major research looking at homeschool academic achievement was completed in 1998 by Dr. Lawrence Rudner. Rudner, a professor at the ERIC Clearinghouse, which is part of the University of Maryland, surveyed over 20,000 homeschooled students. His study, titled Home Schooling Works, discovered that homeschoolers (on average) scored about 30 percentile points higher than the national average on standardized achievement tests.

    This research and several other studies supporting the claims of homeschoolers have helped the homeschool cause tremendously. Today, you would be hard pressed to find an opponent of homeschooling who says that homeschoolers, on average, are poor academic achievers.

  48. Emmy says:

    Myron who here besides Bandit has actually said home schooling is bad or below public school?

  49. Brooke says:

    I am not opposed to home-schooling (if the parent has the proper educational background and credentials to teach and the child is given enough opportunities for outside socializing), BUT I think it’s a gross over-simplication to assume that one is not raising their children in the nuture and admonition of the Lord if their child is in public school. You’re wrong, and it’s a slap to ever parent who either has a child in public schools or is a public school teacher.

    You can (and will, I’m sure) believe what you want to, to make yourself feel all superior, but I’ve known many, many kids that have grown up in the public school system and grown into godly men and women. I’ve also known kids who were homeschooled or in private school who ended up being absolute hellions. Likewise, there are kids, who of course, go the wrong way in public school and kids who absolutely thrive in private or home school. It’s just not as black and white as public school = evil, homeschool = good.

    Again, I think it all depends on how much the parent relies on whatever school curriculum their children are in (be it public, private or homeschool curriculum) to be the parent, with not enough outside instruction in life and how to deal with outside influences.

  50. republitarian says:

    As mentioned earlier, the achievement gaps that are well-documented in public school between boys and girls, parents with lower incomes, and parents with lower levels of education are not found among homeschoolers. While it is not possible to draw a definitive conclusion, it does appear from all the existing research that homeschooling equalizes every student upwards. Homeschoolers are actually achieving every day what the public schools claim are their goals—to narrow achievement gaps and to educate each child to a high level.

    Of course, an education movement which consistently shows that children can be educated to a standard significantly above the average public school student at a fraction of the cost—the average spent by participants in the Progress Report was about $500 per child per year as opposed to the public school average of nearly $10,000 per child per year—will inevitably draw attention from the K-12 public education industry.

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