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Report: Virginia ranked fifth in the nation for best schools

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(The Center Square) — Virginia schools have been ranked fifth in the nation in terms of quality and safety, according to a WalletHub report.

With a total score of 60.28 out of 100, Virginia trailed behind Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and Wisconsin.

The study evaluated state school systems according to their quality and safety. Using a 100-point scale, a state earning a perfect score in quality would receive 80 points, and 20 points would be a perfect score for safety.

Fifteen metrics were used to measure quality, and 17 were used to measure safety. Some were weighted more heavily than others. Dropout rate, math and reading test scores were some of the most impactful quality metrics. Threatened or injured high school students and bullying incidence rates were the most heavily weighted safety metrics.

The commonwealth was also one of 15 states that landed in the best category of “High Spending and Strong School System” and placed 23rd for the amount spent on education, according to WalletHub’s findings.

The study comes on the heels of CNN’s “America’s Top States for Business 2023” report – in which Virginia emerged as second-best for business and first for education – and a report from Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission which suggested the commonwealth’s schools have been underfunded for years.

The release of the JLARC study contributed to ongoing discussion between the General Assembly and Gov. Glenn Youngkin regarding priorities in the state’s budget, a particularly contentious topic this year.

Funding from local and state governments comprises the lion’s share of school funding, with the federal government contributing the least, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Virginia school divisions received $20.1 billion in fiscal year 2021. Local governments contributed $10.5 billion to that figure or 52%. The state contributed $7.8 billion, or 39%, and the federal government funding accounted for $1.7 billion, or 9%, of the total, according to JLARC.

“I remember when I was governor, Virginia was ranked THE best state in the country for public education from pre-school all the way through graduate school because we invested in education,” said Sen. Mark Warner, who favors devoting more of the state budget to education.

Though Youngkin agrees that K-12 education was previously underfunded, it’s unclear how much more of the fiscal year 2024 budget he wants to devote to schools.

“The budget we passed last year was the largest education budget in history, including a 10 percent pay raise for our teachers,” Youngkin said, commenting on JLARC’s findings.

Commonwealth schools wait in earnest for how budget negotiations will resolve.

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