City of Manassas

The following was among actions taken at the Nov. 13 meeting of the Manassas School Board. For more information call 361-0166.

LEGISLATIVE WISH LIST -- The School Board will recommend to area legislators that the 1991 General Assembly consider education the state's highest funding priority when its reviews proposed cuts in state funds to localities.

Gov. L. Douglas Wilder has already asked all state agencies and local school systems to plan for a 5 percent cut in state funding in the next fiscal year to help offset an anticipated $1.3 billion shortfall in state revenues over the next two years.

The School Board's plea that schools in the state be given priority in determining cuts in state funding is among seven recommendations the School Board will ask state legislators to consider in the 1991 session, which begins in January.

Manassas expects to receive a cut of about 2 percent in the $6.6 million in state aid the city normally would receive in this fiscal year, which ends June 30. State aid makes up about 20 percent of the city's current $31.4 million school budget.

State legislators should also avoid drastically changing the state's formula for dividing educational funds among the various localities, according to the School Board. State funding to schools is currently based on an area's population and per capita income. Rural jurisdictions have proposed that the formula be amended to one that would give rural school districts more state subsidies than the wealthier urban area districts.

"Quick fixes to the disparity issue {funding formula} may result in widespread educational mediocrity in Virginia," reads the board's recommendation.

Other school board recommendations to state legislators include: opposition to any new state-mandated programs that would require additional staff and funding; rejection of proposed legislation mandating expansion of school employee grievance procedures; and rejection of proposed legislation requiring public schools to provide private school students transportation to and from their schools.

PRIMARY GRADE TEACHERS -- The school board tentatively agreed to fund five full-time teaching positions next school year to help first through third graders who have difficulties with reading and language arts.

The board's decision was prompted by mounting concerns during the past year and a half that their younger students need stronger skills in reading and writing. Those concerns peaked over Manassas juniors' and seniors' weak performance on the college entrance tests' verbal section last spring. In September, the board directed staff to develop an elementary grade program to assist students with basic reading and writing skills.

The board's tentative decision to fund the position, which would cost the school system about $160,000, precedes this winter's formal planning for the fiscal 1992 budget. Fiscal 1991 ends June 30.

"It reperesents a commitment by the board to deal with the issue of improved education in the early years, specifically in the area of reading," said Superintendent of Schools James E. Upperman. "If we {the board} commit to it {the positions} now, we'll find a way to fund it {them} next year."

If funded, one teaching position would be assigned to each of the five elementary schools, who would have the option of either hiring one full-time teacher or several part-time teachers. The teachers would work more directly with the students.