New JLARC Report: Education Funding Declines

Sep 22, 2015

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State spending on public education in Virginia has declined by 7 percent in the last decade… according to a new report by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission.

When adjusted for inflation, spending fell from $10,927 per pupil in 2005 to $10,148 last year.  But the state’s school divisions say their resources were stretched—while under a mandate to increase student achievement.

Nearly two-thirds of the $15.6 billion spent last year went to instruction—a proportion that actually increased by 2 percent as schools spent less on teacher support services, facilities, and transportation.  JLARC project leader Jamie Bitz said localities provided the largest share.

“Fifty-six percent of total funding came from local governments in 2014. And that included about $3.6 billion beyond the minimum required effort to meet the state’s SOQ costs. About 38% came from the state, and the remaining 6 percent was federal funding.”

Bitz said spending was close to the national median, but student achievement was above that.

“Compared to most states, students in Virginia do score higher on standardized tests, such as reading and math.”

However, to save costs, schools hired fewer teachers, and class sizes increased in two-thirds of school divisions.  Most report that the larger class sizes hindered instructional effectiveness. And low salary increases along with reduced or more expensive benefits have hindered teacher recruitment and retention.

The report also said on-line learning programs cost less than physical schools and could provide increased educational opportunities.  State spending on schools will increase in 2015 due to the General Assembly’s approval this year of higher funding.  Governor McAuliffe said he will propose additional dollars in the budget that he will unveil in December.