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Northern Virginia officials, McDonnell meet on school funding

Anita Kumar

You have to hand it to Northern Virginia leaders. They sure are being persistent in lobbying Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) on a funding change that they say would prove costly to the region's school systems.

Their latest attempt: Last Thursday, the chairmen of the boards of supervisors in Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun counties -- Sharon Bulova (D), Corey Stewart (R) and Scott York (I) -- met privately with McDonnell to ask him to oppose a freeze in the adjustment to the school funding formula known as the local composite index, a change proposed by former Gov. Tim Kaine (D) in his final two-year budget.

"This is going to drastically hurt education in Northern Virginia,'' Stewart said. "The only thing we request is fairness."

Bulova, Stewart and York penned an op-ed in the Post on the issue, and gave McDonnell another copy of a letter they wrote him last week.

"It was a productive meeting,'' said Stacey Johnson, McDonnell's spokeswoman. "The Governor is still reviewing the issue."

Stewart said McDonnell did not indicate which was he was leaning, but told the chairmen that he would seriously consider their concerns and get back to them soon.

"He clearly understood the issue,'' Stewart said. "He's struggling with it."

McDonnell told reporters last week that he has yet to make a decision about whether to undo the freeze to the formula, which is used to determine how much of the cost of providing a basic education is shouldered by the state and how much is paid by local governments. He did note, however, that Kaine's plan is not being met "very warmly in Northern Virginia."

Kaine suggested freezing the composite index to save some money in the state budget. The change also would delay a cut in education spending in 97 of the state's least-wealthy counties.

The division between the state and local governments varies from place to place, using a formula that takes into account localities' wealth. Many Northern Virginians have long believed that the formula was unfair and resulted in the wealthy Washington suburbs shouldering far more of the costs of their local schools than in other parts of the state.

But now the economy has declined and Northern Virginia has lost a bit of its wealth. That will be reflected in the composite index, whenever it is recalculated. The result will be that the state picks up more of the expense of education in places such as Loudoun, Prince William and Fairfax.

Delaying the recalculation will put off that change, meaning local governments in Northern Virginia will pay more: $61 million in Fairfax, $34.4 million in Loudoun, $22.6 million in Prince William. Other Northern Virginia jurisdictions lose out as well.

By Anita Kumar  |  February 8, 2010; 7:30 AM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell  
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Comments

Sure, McDonnell will LISTEN, but in the end NoVA will get what we usually get from Richmond...screwed! First of many efforts over the next 4 years to 'repay' voters around here and show us who is boss when it comes to political power in the Commonwealth.

Posted by: Ebola_22039 | February 8, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Virginia only has 95 counties. I think you meant "localities."

Posted by: noahwayy | February 8, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Anita:

The Governor's Office issued a press release today indicating that Gov. McDonnell has decided not to freeze the LCI and instead rely on the most current economic indicators. If the VA legislature approves, Fairfax schools will receive an additional $61 million, thereby slicing by more than a third the current projected school deficit. This is a huge deal in Fairfax County and merits some real coverage. The Post print-edition coverage thus far has been very limited, ignoring some major events (including a big rally in an elementary school) in favor of a single splashy article about band/strings cuts. And your blog is hours behind the actual news. I really should not have to seek out the Richmond Times Dispatch or the Loundon Times for information about a major funding decision that has significant implications for one of the DC metro region's biggest counties. The Post needs to do better on covering this story.

Posted by: FairfaxSchoolParent | February 8, 2010 11:42 PM | Report abuse

From FairfaxSchoolParent:
"The Post print-edition coverage thus far has been very limited, ignoring some major events"

The Post print edition and for the most part, the electronic edition has been grossly negligent in reporting the legislative events in Virginia this year. The session is only 60 days long and the Post is still focused on puff pieces and political gossip.

It is obvious that the Post has intentially reduced its coverage of Virginia. Only the news staff knows if it is a business decision or just a derelication of duty. Either way, a snowball fight on Dupont Circle is immensely more important to the Post than the education of children in Northern Virginia. That is a twisted system of values.

We need to take a stand and make our voices heard in the Post's newsroom that ignoring such a large segment of its circulation will have a price.

Posted by: thuff7 | February 9, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

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