Study finds Virginia underfunds K-12 schools, recommends spending billions more

JLARC lays out $3.5 billion overhaul of state funding formula
Virginia’s formula for funding K-12 schools needs an overhaul to fund public education...
Virginia’s formula for funding K-12 schools needs an overhaul to fund public education adequately, according to the results of a legislative study presented Monday.(Live 5)
Published: Jul. 10, 2023 at 8:54 PM EDT
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Virginia’s complicated formula for funding K-12 schools needs an overhaul in order for the state to adequately fund public education, according to the results of a major legislative study presented Monday.

Analysts with the General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission told lawmakers the 18-month review showed the state allocates “far less than needed to sufficiently fund Virginia’s school system.” The formula that determines how much money each local school division gets from the state, officials found, “needs to be significantly improved and modernized.”

“In brief, we found that Virginia school divisions receive less funding per student than divisions in other states,” JLARC Chief Legislative Analyst Mark Gribbin said as he presented the results of a lengthy study the General Assembly requested in 2021.

Virginia’s school divisions receive 14% less funding from the state than the 50-state average, JLARC found, equal to about $1,900 less per student. It also spends 4% less than the more localized average for the South Atlantic region as defined by the U.S. Census. The review concluded Virginia spends comparatively more on K-12 schools than neighboring North Carolina and Tennessee, but less than Kentucky, Maryland and West Virginia.

Much of Virginia’s lagging status can be attributed to the state’s complicated Standards of Quality funding formula, which JLARC found routinely underestimates how much funding schools actually need to fulfill the government’s responsibility to provide every Virginia child with a quality education. In fiscal year 2021, for example, the SOQ formula indicated Virginia schools needed $10.7 billion in state and local funds. To fund their operations that year, schools actually spent $17.3 billion.

Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, who chairs JLARC, called the 163-page school spending report a “very important study,” going on to reference an election season in which Republicans are pushing for tax cuts and Democrats are calling for bigger increases in school funding.

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NBC12 is a partner with The Virginia Mercury, an independent, nonprofit online news...
NBC12 is a partner with The Virginia Mercury, an independent, nonprofit online news organization covering state government and policy.(Virginia Mercury)