A Fairfax County School Board member told a legislative panel yesterday that Gov. Gerald L. Baliles' proposal to reshuffle the state's education aid to local school districts is a "mixed blessing" for the county.
Testifying before a joint committee of the House and Senate money committees, Laura McDowall praised the governor for including a teacher pay differential for Northern Virginia schools. However, she added that other provisions of the governor's proposal, including a reduced state responsibility for paying for teachers' fringe benefits, "could have a profound long-range effect on all school divisions."
A number of representatives from school systems in poorer, mostly rural parts of the state attacked the governor's plan, and singled out the teacher pay differential for Northern Virginia as an unfair bonus for the state's wealthiest area.
"It's a gift to Northern Virginia," said E. Mark Pace, superintendent of Alleghany County schools in far western Virginia. "Northern Virginia already has more tax base than a locality like us."
One of the avowed goals of the governor's proposal is to reduce the financing disparity between schools in wealthy and poorer areas of the state. A number of lawmakers from rural areas have said they may try to slash the funds going to Northern Virginia schools on the basis of the area's ability to finance its schools from local tax revenues.
However, school officials from Fairfax, the state's largest school system with nearly 130,000 students, say the Baliles plan would not keep pace with past increases in state education aid.