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JLARC: Virginia formula significantly underfunds K-12 schools

Virginia's funding per student is lower than the 50-state and regional averages. It's also below three of its neighbors.
Virginia's funding per student is lower than the 50-state and regional averages. It's also below three of its neighbors.

Virginia’s legislative watchdog agency is out with a new, scathing report on the way the state funds its public, K-12 schools.

The General Assembly-mandated report comes from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission – or JLARC. It looks into the state’s public school funding formula, which is known as the Standards of Quality.

You can read the entire JLARC report here.

The formula estimates how many staff positions are needed for each school division and then estimates the cost of staff in each district across the state.

The report shows that school divisions in Virginia receive less funding per student than the 50-state average, the regional average and three of the state’s neighbors under the formula.

Compared to the 50-state average, Virginia students are being shortchanged by about $1,900. Additionally, the report found that the current formula for funding schools in Virginia makes it even tougher for small school divisions.

The report also found that the SOQ formula distributes significantly less funding than actual division spending and underestimates staffing needs.

JLARC makes a number of short and long-term recommendations to fix the problem. That includes addressing the formula’s technical issues and coming up with new staffing ratios.

In response to Radio IQ's reporting on this story, a spokeswoman provided this statement from Governor Glenn Youngkin:

"Today’s JLARC report lays plain that the previous two administrations failed to provide adequate funding in K-12 education and more importantly, never sought to reform the system to ensure that funding supports students and teachers in the classroom.

The budget we passed last year was the largest education budget in history, including a 10 percent pay raise for our teachers. The amendments I proposed this year included a $427.7 million increase in spending on public education. And we will continue to invest in our children to ensure they are prepared for success in life.

For those who haven’t been listening to parents, especially those parents of students who are falling behind or have special needs, today’s report should serve as a wake-up call that our biggest problem and greatest opportunity is how we reform our system to drive dollars to improve student academic achievement, support our teachers, and deliver results to parents.”

Mcaulay Porter, spokeswoman for Governor Youngkin, also provided a statement from Virginia Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera and Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Coons. You can read that here.

The JLARC report has also drawn responses from state Democrats. On Twitter, Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg says Republicans underfunded K-12 education for years.

The Virginia School Boards Association and the Virginia Association of School Superintendents released a joint statement in response to the findings as well. The two groups say the report shows what school board members and superintendents in Virginia have known for several years — the state's school funding model lags the nation.

Updated: July 10, 2023 at 4:34 PM EDT
This story has been updated with responses from state officials to the JLARC report, including from Governor Glenn Youngkin.
Nick Gilmore is a meteorologist, news producer and reporter/anchor for RADIO IQ.