Education leaders fear cuts beyond 2010

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A bruising two months at the General Assembly has left education leaders even more concerned about the future. They say the good news is that the budget is in place, and it's not as bad as it could've been. But the bad news is that students will likely be able to tell the difference between now, and next year.

The budget that the GA approved on Sunday includes another $250 million in cuts to education on top of $1 billion cut since 2007. Spending per pupil is going down while the number of students keeps going up.

"From the bottom of my heart, I believe that Virginia this year has taken a huge step backward," said Dr. Kitty Boitnott, President of the Virginia Education Association.

Schools stand to lose even more over the next two years, when the funding formula changes. Districts that lose money in 2011 are covered by a hold-harmless grant, which then gets cut in half in 2012.

"Young people will notice that classrooms are larger. I think they will notice that some of the technology that they might have been getting...All of those things are gonna have to be cut to make these budgets," said NBC12 Education Specialist Dr. Bill Bosher.

But critics would argue that it won't be that bad. The buses will still run, and the lights will still come on.

Try telling the VEA that's all it takes for students to get by.

"Get by? In a global economy? When we need to be providing a high quality education for every child, I don't think that Virginia ought to set as its goal, that we're going to let our students to 'get by,'" Boitnott said.

The challenge now: is how to do more, with less...because a revenue recovery is not expected for another three to five years.

"This is a difficult time. But there's nothing that replaces the relationship between a teacher and a student. And as long as we have those relationships with people who are qualified, then the education  environment for young people is going to be very positive," Bosher said.

Lawmakers passed the budget without raising taxes. That move was criticized by the education association, which advocated for an increase to help lessen the blow.

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