Is Aid to High-Poverty Schools Distributed Fairly?

Mar 4, 2019

School divisions with students who live in poverty are about to get some extra funding.

It’s called the at-risk add-on program. The idea is that school divisions with the highest concentrations of poverty will get more money.

Chris Duncome at the Commonwealth Institute says it’s a way for Virginia to invest money where it will have the greatest impact.

“School divisions with concentrated poverty have the most challenges in attracting and retaining teachers and have the most need for additional support staff positions to work with students,” he says.

Credit dcJohn / Flickr

Critics of the program say concentration of poverty isn’t everything. There’s also scale. More students live in poverty in Fairfax County than in Petersburg, for example, but poverty there is not as concentrated.

“I don’t think they could possibly put together a formula that everyone would consider fair,” says Frank Shafroth at George Mason University.

“Places that are really well off and have much higher assessed property values have a much greater capacity to fund their schools than other areas.”

Governor Ralph Northam wanted a $35 million increase to the at-risk add-on program, although lawmakers scaled that down to $25 million.

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