Del. Ken Plum: Finding More Funding for Schools

by Del. Ken Plum July 16, 2015 at 1:00 pm 15 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThe recent tension between the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the School Board over approval of the budget for the public schools left one big factor out of the equation for funding schools — the role of state government in financing public education in the Commonwealth.

Public education as defined in the state constitution is a partnership between state and local governments. For some years, the state funded on average statewide more than half the cost of public education. In recent years there has been steady slippage in state support, and local governments have had to pick up the difference.

Virginia Issues and Answers, an excellent publication of the Virginia Tech School of Public and International Affairs, took a look at the issue of financing K-12 education in Virginia in its spring 2015 issue. While the national average of state funding for public education has been around 50 percent, “Virginia, however, has provided a smaller fraction of funding with its contributions typically 10 percentage points below the national average.”

With the Great Recession, funding for education dropped nationally while in Virginia in 2010 it dropped to 37 percent to be in the lowest quartile among the states.

As would be expected, in a look at local funding the opposite is true. In Virginia, localities have been asked to pick up a greater share of education costs. The study found that on average local governments in Virginia have to put in about ten percent more for education than their counterparts in other states.

“Whereas most other states rely more heavily on state revenue to fund their schools, Virginia relies more heavily on local revenues from local property and sales taxes,” the report stated.

Federal funds typically provide 10 percent or less to the revenues of schools in the states. Interestingly, in 2009 the federal share of funding schools in Virginia increased by four percent as Virginia accepted without fanfare or objection American Recovery and Reinvestment Act monies that otherwise Virginia politicians like to rage against. The Virginia Tech study found that during the Great Recession other states cut their per pupil spending less than cuts in Virginia.

The funding for schools is complicated by the necessity under the federal Constitution to ensure that children throughout the state are equally protected to have access to public education. The equalization aspect of the state funding formula for schools results in a higher percentage of state dollars going to the poorest communities over the more prosperous ones. While the success of the formula is open to debate on equalizing access to education, reductions in the amount of dollars available disadvantage all school divisions.

Local governments in Virginia can pass only those taxes that are permitted by state government. Fairfax County cannot pass a meals tax, for example, without state authorization and approval in a local referendum.

Fairfax County residents expect the best schools and under current laws and practices have to shoulder most costs through the property tax. As the debate goes on in Fairfax City about funding our schools, we need to have a discussion about the state’s shrinking role.

  • Emmanuel Goldstein

    Here’s a way to free up a ton of funding. Get rid of ESOL. Our grandparents didn’t have state funded English tutors.

    • Cluster Tycoon

      What the grand parents brought however were skills that helped them survive and make a fortune out of nothing. Maybe they didn’t have good English but they sure had good farming methods and a sharp eye for talent. Which makes me wonder how you evolved because you cannot go thru life and be a success spreading rumours and lies.

      • Mike M

        You forgot to identify the rumors and lies.

    • TrollHunter

      How much funding would actually be freed up getting rid of ESOL? Compare that to how much funding would be freed up if special ed were eliminated.


        Millions and millions……fastest growing portion of the school budget.

  • susie

    Oh, where to begin. Fairfax County is one of the richest counties in the country. FACT. The Great Recession had a minimal impact on Fairfax County. FACT. Fairfax County is a Sanctuary County.FACT. What is causing the budget “crises” in Fairfax is letting in a population that does not legally have the right to be here and having this population leech off of the legal residents’ taxes. FACT. You can hide this sordid reality by mentioning how a booming economy with a self-sustaining tax base is not getting its “fair share” from the state of Virginia but it really doesn’t float, does it Ken?

    • Emmanuel Goldstein

      Ken never has nor will he ever have an honest debate in these forums. Karen puts up his weekly propaganda piece and moderates (er…deletes) what she doesn’t like.

      We know the problem is a bunch of Dreamers but that’s racist

      • Karen Goff

        Not true about what I don’t “like.” I only moderate and yes, delete, what is in direct violation of our terms of service (ie, name calling, spreading false information, profanity, direct racism, etc.) Also, Ken writes this opinion piece for the general public. He does not have to stop back in to debate or answer your criticism.

        • Emmanuel Goldstein

          So convenient that a forum like this exists for a democrat to just drop by once a week and have a nice front page story pumping his message. When was the last time this was done for a Republican?

          • Karen Goff

            Let’s go over this again.

            Ken Plum is an elected official who represents Reston. That is why he has a column here. He is a democrat, as is reston’s school board rep, state senator, the Hunter Mill Supervisor, both US senators, the US rep and the governor.

            If there were a Republican elected official representing Reston (not the nearby 10th district, not Loudoun. RESTON), Then he or she would be most welcome to have the space here. The chair of the Hunter Mill Republicans is welcome to have space here.

            Until that happens, that’s all we have. Meanwhile, everyone else of every political stripe is welcome to say what they want in the comments as long as they follow the rules.

            That answer your question?

          • Thanks

            Karen, you have answered the question over and over. Some people just refuse to listen. I would be afraid to see the comments you actually have to moderate out. You do a great job and I thank you for it.


          OK KAREN, I’ll try again. But, real journalists are not into censorship.


          CONNOLLY/WARNER/KAINE HUMP OBAMA’S LEFT LEG ALL DAY, EVERY DAY, even as he enters into the deal w/ IRAN which will start WW3 and the possible destruction of ISRAEL

          MCAULIFFE is a sicko criminal Clinton Sycophant

          But lets keep it local…..Keep on voting for libs…Our schools suck, crime is rampant, there isn’t any money, the illegals are ruining our way of life and the list Karen mentioned above all have one thing in common…..THEY ARE LIBS

  • Boo Radley

    instead of more taxes, why not build a casino to help fund schools? You could start with a Hooters in Reston that has Off Track Betting built into the place to help fund schools.

  • Cluster Tycoon

    The way I see the future unfolding is that more and more foreigners, educated ones will come into the country and will be taken the good jobs while murricans are dumbing down to the budget level of their education programs. The fastest growing jobs will be poker player, barista, and border patrol, how about it?

    • Mike M

      Since this country is so full of fools, why don’t you pick out a new one for your special self and I will help you pack up and move. Don’t let the border patrol smack your arse on the way out.


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