School Board Shares State Concerns at Legislative Breakfast
The Loudoun County School Board shared its views on state issues with the county’s General Assembly delegation during a breakfast on Friday, January 6th, at the Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Administrative Offices in Ashburn.
The General Assembly’s 2012 Regular Session convened Tuesday.
“Our representative roles are different, but our interests in continuing to provide affordable, quality education to those we represent are the same,” School Board Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn District) said in welcoming the state delegation.
Sen.-elect Barbara Favola (31st District) spoke about state mandates and how they relate to Northern Virginia’s school systems.
“Northern Virginia jurisdictions exceed… the educational mandates the state has. Local governments have already made the decision to go beyond what the state has required. We want lower class sizes here. We want technology in the classroom. Our school systems, for all of our challenges, are still-first rate and you should be very proud of that.
“We have great outcomes. Kids are competing well…We have high graduation rates. We are doing a very good job.”
Del. Tom Rust (86th District) said he would carry many of the items sought by the School Board to the House of Delegates, but had a word of caution about items that carry expenses.
“We have an unwritten rule in the House that when you put in a budget amendment to increase spending in one area, you have to tell them what you’re going to cut. So when we put in one for Project A, the same amount of money has to come from Project B. So it’s very easy for us to sit here and say we’re going to put all these amendments in – all of which I support – but when you put something in like that, somebody else gets hurt. Those are the choices we have to make and everybody has to be conscious of that...
“We’re with you. We’re going to try to help you, but don’t ask for the impossible, because when I put a budget amendment in to give more money to ‘X,’ I have to tell them who I’m going to cut. It’s pretty brutal down there.”
Ultimately, finding additional funding for education will mean changing the state’s tax structure, Rust added. “The entire taxing structure of Virginia is so out of date that there needs to be an entire new taxing structure put together. There also needs to be – in my opinion – an entirely new structure in the relationship between the state and local governments. Until we do something dramatic like that, we’re going to sit at this same table and talk about these same things.”
Del. Barbara Comstock (34th District) agreed with Rust’s assessment. “We really do need to get a 21st century taxing structure in Virginia. We just don’t have it.”
Sen.-elect Dick Black (13th District) said he sensed Northern Virginia’s influence growing in the General Assembly.
“One of my hopes is that, with the shift in the strength in the Senate, but also in the House, towards the more populous parts of the state that we may begin to have the clout to start shifting the balance on the Composite Index (the mechanism through which Virginia’s localities receive state education funding). That would be one of the things I would hope we could do…
“We’ve had a significant shift in voting power to the more urban and suburban areas and away from some of the more rural areas and I think it potentially opens an opportunity for us to work together. It’s one of those special areas where Democrats and Republicans team up and we want to see a better funding situation for our schools. I think we’re all unifying on that.”
Sen. Mark Herring (33rd District) said he didn’t want funding for education siphoned away for other budgetary needs.
“I know that we suffer from… some of the worst traffic congestion in America in Northern Virginia, but I don’t think the way to solve that transportation problem is to pull money away from education…I don’t think it’s the right thing to do for students who are in school now; taking money away from education to work on the roads works at cross purposes with other parts of our economic development plan, which is to make sure we have a very strong education system from K-12 all the way up through higher ed. To make sure we have one of the most skilled workforces in America to compete in a global economy.”
Del. Jim LeMunyon (67th District) said the move to return control of the school calendar to local school boards is gaining momentum.
“I think there’s a 50-50 chance we could get this through the house. I’m committed to making it one of my top three priorities…
“There are very compelling issues for making this change. This isn’t just…a convenience for local school boards. There’s a huge budget impact to keeping schools open after SOL’s are done… Let’s face it, when the pools are open and the SOL’s are done, these kids are checked out. We can’t afford to keep schools open for two or three weeks in Virginia and not get the biggest bang for our buck.”
Herring said the calendar issue still faces challenges in the Senate. “It seems to get closer every year. One day it’s going to happen.”
Legislative aides Lana Westfall and Nancy Duke attended the breakfast to represent delegates Tag Greason (32nd District) and Joe May (33rd District), respectively.
Attending the breakfast were Hornberger, School Board Vice Chairman Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge District), Debbie Rose (Algonkian District), Tom Reed (At-Large), Kevin Keusters (Broad Run District), Jennifer Bergel (Catoctin District), Jeff Morse (Dulles District), Bill Fox (Leesburg District) and Brenda Sheridan (Sterling District). Student School Board members attending the breakfast included Connor Pompilio (Briar Woods High School), Alexandra Moore (Broad Run High School), Katherine Gorbach (Dominion High School), Federico Serrano (Freedom High School), Natalia Kot (Heritage High School), Brenna Cashen (Loudoun County High School), Benjamin Baker (Loudoun Valley High School), Connor Adams (Potomac Falls High School) and Mark Bland (Woodgrove High School).