Educational Editorial: Composite Index & Robin Hood

By Dr. Bill Bosher, NBC12 Educational Specialist

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - State legislators are taking a second look at the way they decide how much money to give to the local schools in your community.

The money is parceled out through a complex formula that takes into consideration the value of real estate and personal incomes. Property values have plummeted in Northern Virginia, which would get more money under the revised formula.

Officials in the City of Richmond, as well as those in more that 90 other jurisdictions, question whether it is fair to penalize their children to balance the books in a wealthy part of the state.

In the 1970s, states like Texas, California, New Jersey, and Minnesota had lawsuits that focused on whether or not a child's education, constitutionally a state function, should be dependent upon local property taxes.

These cases were argued in the Federal Courts under the 14th Amendment, equal protection under the law, and questioned equity, fairness.

In the early 1990s Virginia had its own brand of "fairness" litigation argued before the State Supreme Court under Scott v. Commonwealth.

Virginia won in large part because of the equalization component, "Composite Index," that is in the state formula for funding schools…a Robin Hood approach.

Every three years Virginia recalculates its factors and there are new winners and losers. This year Northern Virginia would have been the winner ($61 million in Fairfax) and places like Richmond would have lost ($11 million).

In a political paradox, Governor Tim Kaine's budget put Robin Hood in jail for a year. It seems now that he is about to be released -- and has had a jailhouse conversion, robbing from the poor to give to the rich.

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