Richmond School Board discusses budget woes

By Sunni Blevins - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The first in a series of meetings about Richmond school's growing budget woes was held this morning.  The district stands to lose an additional $11 million if Governor Bob McDonnell decides to un-freeze the composite index.

School board members say it's important for residents and our state government to realize that the composite index is not a true reflection of the Richmond school district, a system where about 70 percent of students are on free or reduced lunches.

Maurice Henderson, 5th School District Rep says, "the index indicates that Richmond is one of the most prosperous districts in the state of Virginia right now, so that's really a little hard for us to say with a straight face given the challenges and needs that we face for our children."

Henderson says if the composite index proposal passes, they'll have no choice but to adapt.

"It will very very painful. It will be painful to our children, and there's just no easy way to accommodate this adjustment without cutting into the bone if you will," he said.

Richmond schools leaders are already working with at least an $18 million budget shortfall, and they hope parents can help keep it at that.

"The governor will present his budget to the General Assembly on the 21, so there's still time to communicate to your legislatures and make sure that they understand the importance of this index," Henderson said.

Governor McDonnell has said he believes it's just time to update the local composite index because he wants to make sure the Commonwealth allocates education funds fairly. This formula has been used for 40 years.

Some schools -- like Fairfax County -- would benefit by more than $60 million.

The next Richmond meeting is Tuesday night at 7:30 at Franklin Military Academy, and there are more meetings scheduled at other schools later this week.

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Richmond City School Board members will hold a series of district meetings to discuss the most recent proposal now before the General Assembly regarding public school funding for the 2010-2011 school year.

Gov. Bob McDonnell has recommended unfreezing the current local composite index formula, a move that could cost Richmond Public Schools an additional $11 million in revenue.  This would increase the district's anticipated shortfall to $28.8 million for the upcoming school year.

Information sessions have been scheduled for:

Feb. 16:     John B. Cary Elementary  8:30 a.m.
                     Franklin Military Academy   7:30 p.m.
   Feb. 17:     Brown Middle    6 p.m.
                     Elkhardt Middle    6 p.m.
                    Holton Elementary   6:30 p.m.
  Feb. 18:     Albert Hill Middle   5:30 p.m.
                    Broad Rock Elementary   6 p.m.
                    Overby-Sheppard Elementary  6 p.m.

For more information, contact the district's Public Information Office at 780-7100.

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