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Budget negotiators have some time to address education funding shortfall


As leaders on the money committees of the General Assembly meet in private to nail down budget numbers, they will need to make a determination about how much money needs to go to schools to fix a math error from the Department of Education.

When lawmakers left Richmond last weekend, many were under the impression that a $200 million mistake in estimating basic aid for local school divisions had been solved. But now, groups like the Commonwealth Institute and the Virginia Education Association are saying that's not true.

Chad Stewart at the VEA says only about $20 million has been allocated, leaving a gap of about $180 million.

"They kind of moved the goal posts internally in order to claim that they made school divisions whole while in reality never really addressing the $201 million gap that everyone else was talking about publicly," Stewart says.

Delegate Mark Sickles is a Democrat from Fairfax County who is one of the Appropriations Committee members meeting in secret to craft a budget.

"We're lucky now not to have a budget done because we need to get to the bottom of this," Sickles explains. "We need to find out exactly, in this complicated formula, how we need to adjust it to account for the changes that we made in the tax code."

The deadline for the budget is this summer, so there's still lots of time to make the numbers add up, although school Superintendent Jillian Balow won't be around to help fix the problem. She announced this week she’s stepping down.

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

Updated: March 1, 2023 at 4:42 PM EST
Editor's note: The VEA is a financial supporter of Radio IQ.
Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.