Reduced funding impacts schools

Published 2:23 pm Thursday, October 22, 2015

Area school divisions have felt the pains of state funding losses over the past several years and the impacts have resulted in a loss of programming and school staffing.

According to Dr. David Smith, the division superintendent of Prince Edward County Public Schools, between fiscal years 2009 and 2014, state funding for the division decreased by a 18.4 percent per pupil. The percentage does not include state sales tax, he said.

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According to a press release from the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS), a survey conducted in the spring “revealed that drastic reductions in state funding for public education and maximum efforts by localities to replace lost funds have pushed Virginia’s schools to the limits of their human and financial capacity in their attempts to meet today’s expectations and serve the needs of students.”

In light of the funding losses, Smith said the division has reduced both staff and programs. A total of 78 staff and faculty positions have been eliminated since the 2009 funding decrease. “More than half are teachers,” Smith said.

He said that foreign

language offerings have been reduced and class sizes have increased at the elementary and high schools.

Neighboring Cumberland County Public Schools (CCPS) has also felt the pain of state funding reductions.

According to Division Superintendent Dr. Amy Griffin, in fiscal year 2008-2009, the division operated on a budget of $17.4 million. “Currently, we operate on a $14,736,161 budget. Due to the drastic reduction in funds, cuts were made in staff, salaries and instructional programs/supports for students,” she said.

“In 2008-2009, [CCPS] employed 262 individuals compared to the 219 employees now serving the students of Cumberland. During the 2010-2011 school year, full-time employees took a 5 percent pay cut. In addition to staffing and compensation, our students lost instructional supports such as New Beginnings and AVID [Advancement Via Individual Determination], as well as chorus, elementary Spanish and French programs,” she said.

According to the VASS release, these local school divisions are not alone. “Fifty-two percent of the school districts reported that they have reduced co-curricular programs such as fine arts, foreign language, physical education and career technical education.”

Additionally, “92 percent of Virginia’s school districts have cut staff to accommodate state funding reductions. Over 10,000 positions have been eliminated, with over half of those being teaching positions,” the release said.

Dr. Cecil Snead, the division superintendent in Buckingham County, said, “our philosophy is set to maximize support to the classrooms. Given the Standards of Quality requirements and realities that are posed upon local educational agencies, the unfunded state mandates and loss of state funding subsequently increase the burden on local governments,” he said.

“Buckingham County Public Schools and its employees have instituted some remarkable opportunities for students by maximizing efficiency in spending,” Snead said. “However, it’s the sustainability and the capacity to continue those good efforts that are at risk if state funding is not brought to the level it should be in the next biennium.”

The release said state funding for public education has decreased by $1 billion since the recession in 2008.