School Funding: Who Has the Responsibility?
When it comes to public school funding in Prince William County, there is plenty of finger pointing to go around. Stuck in the middle are the children, teachers, and taxpayers.
- The School Board points to both the Board of County Supervisors and General Assembly for not funding enough.
- The Board of County Supervisors points to the General Assembly for not funding its fair share.
- The General Assembly points to the Board of County Supervisors for not funding its fair share.
Are you dizzy yet?
Since 2009, neither state nor local revenues have kept pace with growth of the student population in Prince William County. Indeed, both the General Assembly and the BOCS should prioritize public school funding.
Virginia is the ninth wealthiest state in the nation for per-capita personal income, yet ranks 41st in the nation for state funding of K-12 public schools according to the CQ State Fact Finder Series. This is a drop from 38th in the nation.
State funding of public schools is based on the Local Composite Index (LCI). The classic NOVA vs. ROVA fight figures in here. The LCI favors more state funding for poorer districts and less state funding for wealthier districts. The assumption is that wealthier districts will be able to make up the difference.
Prince William County is the 4th wealthiest county in the state and the 12th wealthiest in the nation, so it benefits less from the LCI. While the assumption is that the local government should pick up the slack in state funding, the Prince William County BOCS has chosen not to. Prince William County has nearly the least local support for public schools in Northern Virginia according to the 2015 WABE Report. This has resulted in the lowest per pupil expenditure and highest class sizes in the region.
It is stated in the Virginia constitution that "The General Assembly shall provide for a system of free public elementary and secondary schools for all children of school age throughout the Commonwealth, and shall seek to ensure that an educational program of high quality is established and continually maintained."
The ultimate solution would be for the state to provide more public school funding. By pushing funding responsibilities to local governments, the General Assembly is walking away from its constitutional responsibility, a responsibility that would render unnecessary the local fights for school funding that occur in Prince William County and other counties across the commonwealth.