Cuts made by lawmakers in Virginia since the 2008 recession have reduced state support for schools by about $800 million per year, a new report from The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis contends.
The institute, an economic and policy research organization in Richmond, Va., says in a news release that the reduced support stems from 12 policy changes the legislature has enacted.
The change with the largest effect on funding: capping the number of support staff the state will help pay for at levels below what schools need. The institute calculates that the cap has cost Virginia school systems $754 million in aid over two years.
"The cap is arbitrary," the report says. "It does not represent actual costs, and it is not based upon estimates of the number of needed support staff."
Other costly cuts include eliminating support for certain equipment and travel expenses; and increasing the projected lifespan of buses.
"These cuts are showing up in the form of fewer teachers and support staff, larger class sizes, and deteriorating school facilities," the report says.
The institute urges Virginia to address the flaws in the state's school funding formula.
“The changes made to the formula helped the state balance its budget during a time of financial strain, but do not reflect the realities facing Virginia’s schools,” says Chris Duncombe, policy analyst with the institute and lead author on the report. “Now that the state’s in a better financial position, it’s time to fix the formula.”