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State Education Officials to Consider Making School Funding More Equitable

Pascal Volk / Flickr

Is the way Virginia funds its schools equitable? That’s a topic up for debate in Richmond.

Next week, members of the Virginia State Board of Education will consider a new proposal to create an equity fund – more than $350 million to pay for additional teachers and targeted compensation.

Chris Duncombe at the Commonwealth Institute says distributing that money based on poverty would create some equity in the system. 

“Virginia actually right now is spending less per student in the school divisions with the highest child poverty rates when you’re looking at state and local funds combined compared to school divisions with the lowest child poverty rates or the greatest wealth,” he says.

But Kristen Blagg at the Urban Institute says poverty is only one of a number of things to consider. 

“Being an English language learner or having special education needs, those are also needs that need to get funded," Blagg explains. "So when we are thinking about equity and we are thinking about distributing funds equitably, student poverty is a very important and very large need. But so are the other needs that the students may have.”

Whatever decision the Board of Education makes, the rubber will meet the road next year when the General Assembly will transform the policy proposals into legislation — a time when some of the ideals and some of the funding formulas might change again.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.