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Audit indicates Virginia K-12 schools underfunded

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(The Center Square) — A report released Monday indicates Virginia’s K-12 education system has received inadequate state funding for years — and Republicans and Democrats are blaming each other for the results.

The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission staff reviewed Virginia’s K-12 funding formula – the mechanism used to determine the state’s education budget – upon being directed to do so by the 2021 General Assembly and shared its findings and recommendations in the report.

JLARC found that the commonwealth’s funding formula, also known as the Standards of Quality formula, relies on faulty “inputs and assumptions” that “lack clear rationale and do not reflect prevailing practice in school divisions,” resulting in Virginia spending less per student than the regional and national state averages.

For example, many SOQ methods used to calculate teacher and staff compensation result in inadequate estimates. Special needs and low-income students aren’t appropriated sufficient funding either.

The agency ultimately recommended the SOQ use a student-based rather than a staffing-based model to determine funding, as most states do, according to JLARC, and the General Assembly amend the Code of Virginia to diminish its reliance upon the SOQ.

Virginia Republicans and Democrats have erupted in a battle on social media in response to the study’s findings.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin indicated in a tweet that Republicans shouldn’t be blamed for the underfunding problem, as the commonwealth gave teachers a 10% pay raise when it passed its “largest education budget in history” last year, after he assumed office.

“Today’s JLARC report lays plain that the previous two administrations failed to provide adequate funding in K-12 education, and more importantly, never sought to reform the system to ensure that funding supports students and teachers in the classroom,” Youngkin said.

He also mentioned that he has proposed amendments this year, including a nearly $430 million increase in public education spending for the state.

Democrats rebuffed the governor’s remarks with tweets of their own.

“Republicans underfunded K-12 education in Virginia for years. It took [Virginia Senate Democrats] majority to start prioritizing K-12 again. We still have a ways to go,” wrote Democratic Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg.

“Investing in public education > Youngkin’s proposed tax cuts. Proof of what we said all along: This model for K-12 is failing our students, and it’s leaving our schools underfunded in comparison to surrounding states,” Virginia Senate Democrats said in a tweet.

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