By Michael Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Northern Virginia school systems are expected to lose tens of millions of dollars in state aid in the coming year because of slumping tax receipts and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's proposal to cut education funding.
Local officials are still sifting through Kaine's proposed $425 million cut, which would be a 7 percent reduction in state K-12 funding.
But a Washington Post review of data from the Virginia Department of Education shows that, for the fiscal year that begins in July, Fairfax County schools could receive $48 million less than the system had been due from the state's approved budget. For Prince William County, the cut could amount to $40 million; for Loudoun County, $15 million.
Those would be substantial losses for schools to absorb as they prepare fiscal 2010 budgets.
In previous years, education funding survived statewide budget cuts, but Virginia and other states are considering slashing K-12 funding as the economy worsens. Alabama's governor this month proposed a 12.5 percent cut, the largest for education funding in 48 years. Florida's governor has asked state agencies, including education, to prepare proposals for a 10 percent cut. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) has not proposed a new budget, but cuts appear likely.
Virginia's deepest education cuts would hit non-classroom staff such as social workers and school nurses. Kaine (D) proposes to save $340 million through such cuts. He also is proposing to eliminate $83 million in state support for school construction.
Rural school systems would probably be hit hardest. The state shares education costs with schools based on a formula that takes into account local incomes, property values and retail sales, meaning that poorer counties get much more of their funding from Richmond.
To soften the blow, Kaine proposed limiting state funding losses to $400 per pupil in each school system.
In the Washington region, reliance on state funding varies widely. Fairfax, which has the state's largest system, gets 21 percent of its school operating budget from Richmond. But Prince William, with the second-largest system, receives 49 percent of its funding from the state, according to a November report from the Washington Area Boards of Education.