Board of Education Wants $950 Million Mo’ Money

by James A. Bacon

Elections have consequences, as former President Obama famously said. In Virginia, where the Democratic Party displays enormous momentum in the 2019 election for control of the state Senate and House of Delegates, you can get an idea of what those consequences will be in this article today in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

In a preview of a Virginia Board of Education (SBOE) meeting today, Justin Mattingly with the RTD reports that the board will review a proposal calling for $950 million in new money for public schools, much of which will be reserved for schools serving high proportions of low-income households.

In a Republican-dominated legislature, even one that prioritizes K-12 spending, the proposals would be Dead on Arrival. But there’s no telling what a Democratic-controlled General Assembly will do in collaboration with Governor Ralph Northam, who, in contrition for his blackface episode of 35 years ago, has pledged to redeem himself with policies favored by progressive politicians.

Proposed changes to the Standards of Quality (SOQ) guidelines for resource inputs into schools would reduce class sizes and hire more reading specialists. The board also is considering the creation of a $364 million statewide “equity fund,” funded with existing and new money sources, to hire extra teachers and support staff and boost pay at schools with high concentrations of poverty.

Adjusted for inflation, state support per student is 8% less than it was before the 2017-18 recession, contend advocates of greater state spending. Adding $950 million to state support for K-12 education would increase state support for K-12 education 18% over what the state spent in 2017-18.

“We’re looking to maximize the potential of every student in the commonwealth and to make sure school divisions have the resources to be able to do so,” said the state superintendent of public instruction, James Lane.

“If these are passed, it will be because the [Board of Education] believes that this set of recommendations will move us down the path toward equitable outcomes for all of our children,” said Daniel Gecker, the president of the board. “There is no doubt that it is a more expensive proposal than what’s currently being funded by the legislature, but it is one that we believe where the cost is justified.”

Here are some questions taxpayers should pose to legislative candidates in next months’ election:

  • Is there any correlation between per-student spending and student achievement (based on standardized test scores) in Virginia schools?
  • Is there any correlation between student-teacher ratios and student achievement in Virginia schools?
  • Is there any correlation between teacher pay and student achievement in Virginia schools?
  • Doesn’t Virginia’s state funding formula already favor school districts with large poor populations?
  • Don’t federal programs already favor school districts with large poor populations?
  • What evidence is there that redistributing more wealth from middle-class to lower-income Virginians will actually improve educational results for lower-income Virginians?
  • Can you think of no other reason than school funding that low-income Virginians might under-perform their more affluent peers academically?

House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, groused that lawmakers should have been involved in crafting the board’s proposals. Said he: “These are major changes to the commonwealth’s public school funding mechanisms that are happening largely without the input of the General Assembly, and that’s concerning in and of itself.”

That’s it? That’s all he had to say –that he wasn’t consulted? Well guess what, Mr.Cox, there’s a very good chance that the Democrats will win a House majority this fall, you won’t be Speaker of the House any more, and the SBOE believes that consulting Republican legislators would be a waste of time.

If the Republican leadership can’t turn another proposed billion-dollar raid on the middle class into a winning campaign issue for Republicans, then they don’t deserve to control the legislature. It’s time to reinvent the GOP into an institution that offers more than cheaper, watered-down versions of Democratic solutions to Virginia’s social problems.

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15 responses to “Board of Education Wants $950 Million Mo’ Money

  1. My government is experience is limited and is now dated. And I haven’t studied the details of the SBOE’s proposal. But generally speaking, from my experience both in the public and private sectors, I learned that the solution to any problem is rarely “we need more money.” This quote caught my attention: “We’re looking to maximize the potential of every student in the commonwealth and to make sure school divisions have the resources to be able to do so,” said the state superintendent of public instruction, James Lane.

    I like the first clause of the sentence regarding maximizing the potential of every student in the commonwealth. The second clause is a red flag. What does it mean to “…maximize the potential of every student in the commonwealth”? How is potential measured (and SOL scores aren’t an answer to that question in my opinion)? If we are not maximizing potential, why not? What policies and processes can be tweaked right now to measurably improve student potential?

    Facing any situation that falls short of “maximizing potential” there are always root causes that can be analyzed, and once analyzed, solutions put in place to move the ball forward. Then, and for me only then, does the matter of more money make sense. In other words, just an a general example, if it can be demonstrated that results improved 25% by instituting better accountability and work processes, perhaps the next 25% gain legitimately requires additional financial resources. But you have to walk through the first 25% before talking about the next 25%


  2. The Board has its proposal, which now has to go to the Governor, who is constrained by a constitutional requirement that he present a balanced budget in December. Unfortunately, the political cultural norms now allow that budget to be balanced with proposed new taxes, as opposed to using merely the revenues in the official forecast. But the final decision on what to propose is his, not the Board of Education.

    You failed to mention, Jim, that the Democrat’s official spokesman, Jeff Schapiro, elsewhere in the paper floated this idea: Ending the state transfer of funds to localities to help cover the car tax. The dollar amount involved? That same $950 million. Coincidence, I’m sure….Localities will scream about that, of course, since in effect they would be paying for the higher SOQ and the new equity funding with the loss of local revenue. But it would be a politically slick move, so worth watching for.

    • Just looked at the JLARC spending report, cited in an earlier post. In the decade covered, not adjusted for inflation, state appropriations for direct aid grew on average 3 percent a year. It is about 29 percent of the General Fund, and for the period received more than one dollar in five of all the new GF revenues. That was about $165 million per year.

      Now JLARC does not report the data on a per-FTE or per capita basis, so doing that might produce the “dire” results that are the focus of the Commonwealth Institute. The years you chose to compare and the inflation estimate you use will also matter. But in raw dollars, aid to local schools has grown and trails only Medicaid in terms of growth. At the last JLARC meeting, one of the Democratic members (Plum) asked JLARC staff about the CIFA data, and the reports that Virginia schools were getting the short end…the rest of us may never see that answer, however. The media just takes CIFA as gospel.

    • As the great Ric Brown periodically reminded people, the state constitution does not require the Governor to introduce a balanced budget nor does it require the legislature to enact a balanced budget. What it does require is that the Governor make sure that expenses for the biennium do not exceed the revenue. Here is the exact language: “The Governor…shall ensure that no expenses of the Commonwealth be incurred which exceed total revenues on hand and anticipated during a period not to exceed the two years and six months.” There is a difference between proposing/enacting a budget and executing it.

      That being said, politically it is expected that the Governor’s proposed budget be balanced and the one enacted by the legislature be balanced.

  3. Yr. Excellency!
    I would add one to your list of very good questions:
    Given its fifteen-year record of failed interventions at Petersburg, why would anyone think the Board of Education knows how to improve schools?

  4. All 4 comments above though John Butcher’s at 12.49 p.m. are excellent, on target, experience borne, and sage. Thank you Philip, Thank you Steve, Thank you John.

    I will elaborate briefly in my own way. Now we spy the hogs coming over the hillock toward the feeding trough. These already fattened beasts are fully seasoned hogs, masters of deception and deceit in digging up and gobbing up other peoples’ money. So their laborious initial ground work behind their newest hoped for feast on other peoples’ money has been laid in and spread out in the trough in many ways, often behind closed doors and curtains, and using surreptitious and duplicitous methods. This includes public media to spread propaganda that appears innocent, heart rendering, authoritative and/or done with best intentions on its face, while it is a underhanded money grub in fact. Such devil’s work, for example, is designed to appeal to the rube, the foolish expert, the sentimentalist, the idealist, and the ideologue. So often it seems not only “Great but Good,” and always done in name of the oppressed, those longing for social justice.

    But Never Forget –

    The mission of the fat hogs is clear and ruthless. They’re gonna get their grinding teeth on vast amounts of other peoples’ money by hook or by crook, into their bellies. So, for example, a deceit driven $5 Billion fund raiser is never enough. Nor are decades of skyrocketing costs per student ever enough. Even spending huge ever increasing sums of other peoples money in ways that have resulted in an uninterrupted string of disasters ruining generations of kids over decades, even these sums and these disasters, are never enough to fill the vast bellies of these fatten hogs at the trough. The done their raids for 50 years. They will never stop of the own accord, cause they are never satisfied or rich enough, or ever tired on feasting on other people’s money.

    However, ugly, lets here on this blog dive here into the squalid details.

  5. CrazyJD, among the wisest commenters on this blog, recently offered these gems on the failures of America’s public education for all kids, most particularly those disadvantaged kids subjected to public education.


    “I would argue that even kids (who are) high school grads are not good to go, and not even necessarily kids of college-educated parents. The level of ignorance at the college level is simply astounding.”


    “For once, I believe Larry G has stumbled obliquely into a partial truth: you cannot teach anything like financial literacy when the student cannot add and subtract. I know way too many adult poor people, mainly clients, who cannot add or subtract, hard as that is to believe. Without an adequate grounding in basic mathematics, financial concepts are out the window for a poor person. In this respect, “financial literacy” and “jobs” are at the same level of endeavor. You can’t get to either if you don’t know basic math. In the Richmond schools, my admittedly limited experience has been that they engage with abstract concepts of math instead of teaching a kid to memorize his addition and multiplication tables. Without the basics, the kid is usually toast. He won’t find a real paying job and he can’t be taught financial literacy. Good luck trying. A waste of money.

    Also, good luck trying to teach math in anything like the Richmond school system.”


    “Well put, Jim.

    In any event, to me the real question is: what is the critical mass of disruption in the proposed schools, having nothing to do with race per se. What does a student by student analysis of prior disruption in the classroom yield? Will any of the proposed schools cross into the critical mass of disruption that make any supposed rub- off effect irrelevant because no one is learning anything due to the disruption. If you compare New Trier high school in Winnetka with Harlan high school on the south side of Chicago, you will probably find that the critical mass of disruption at Harlan is much lower than at New Trier. Without knowing precise figures, I would guess that New Trier’s critical mass exceeds 50% while Harlan’s is closer to 5%. So what would be the critical mass for the proposed schools in Richmond. If you exceed this, I submit the school will fail.”

    Friends, there is a world of learning and truth in what CrazyJD says in these three comments above. We need to get far deeper within those awful truths, why his comments are so true, and what is it exactly in our public education system that destroys so many kids, particularly our disadvantaged kids? And why is it that Virginia now proposes through its Board of Education that Virginia taxpayers spend another nearly $Billion dollars to continue the destruction.

  6. Let me clarify “good to go” – it means the probably will be able to go out into the world, get a decent job and take reasonable care of their family and not need entitlements.

    It was not intended to assert they would be top tier scientists and/or entrepreneurs that are a level up for that but it was intended to identify the group that did not have “enough” to get a good job, take care of their family and NOT need entitlements.

    If non public-schools had the answer – truly – the politics would change but the reality is we have folks who just don’t like the concept of public education and so they look for all the warts they can identify to then claim that non-public would do better. Mind you – they do not want the equivalent level of accountability – nope.. that would just totally blow it all out of the water!

    And here’s something that will surely give the no-tax folks indigestion:

    Post-U. Md. poll: Most Md. residents open to higher taxes to boost school spending

    As Maryland lawmakers weigh revamping the state’s public education system, a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll finds widespread support for dramatically boosting school spending and an openness to higher income taxes to finance it.

    • The real questions, not asked, are: 1) How much additional taxes per year are you willing to pay in order to see the Kirwin Commission’s recommendations implemented? 2) How confident are you that spending more money to implement the Kirwin’s Commission’s recommendations will produce the predicted results? 3) If spending more money to implement the Kirwin’s Commission’s recommendations does not produce the predicted results, what should be done?

      The Post remains a fourth-rate media outlet that games everything it does to advance its political agenda. Bezos should fire everyone and start over.

  7. “top tier scientists and/or entrepreneurs” comprise far less than 1% of population.

    We are trying to get kids to read and write, and add, subtract, multiply, and divide, and to otherwise be able to carry on an understandable conversation on the basic topics of every day living in our culture, what they need to survive in modern world.

    • and thats why I say most kids of college-educated and solid High School grads are “good to go” .

      They have the basics… they are NOT top tier… but more important – they can learn more if they need to in their jobs.. they are competent at reading and writing.

      but what about the ones below them? How do we get them up to the basic level and if we fail to do that – are we prepared to provide them with entitlements?

  8. “If non public-schools had the answer – truly – the politics would change..”
    But there are signs of major political support for non-public schools. They enjoy tax exempt status, and donors can deduct their gifts – often as credits, more valuable. There is almost no regulation, surely a sign that they are politically sensitive. No SOL’s seems to bug you, but the assumption is those schools are doing well without them. You and your fellow levelers would love to grind them into mediocrity, I’m sure, but the politics is protecting them, isn’t it? After all the schools represent all major religions, serve many high income families (and more low income families than you probably know.) I know first hand that it is not just Republicans attending those schools, probably not even a majority. The big Richmond schools are not GOP hotbeds at all.

    • If the private schools were ever forced by law to administer the SOLs those test results would conclusively demonstrate that Virginia’s public schools are even more of a mess than previously thought.

  9. The biggest surprise in this article is Jim Bacon’s surprise at Kirk Cox’s apparent ambivalence at another middle class wealth transfer. What do you think Kirk Cox and his Republican cohorts have been doing for the past 25 years? Transferring middle class wealth from the urban and suburban areas of Virginia to the lily white rural areas in order to curry favor and buy votes. Your emperor has no clothes Jim. He is hardly in any position to complain about middle class wealth transfers.

    The Democrats are going to win in November. A competent Republican Party could have held onto a majority in Virginia from 2020 – 2022. However, we don’t have a competent Republican Party in Virginia. We have the RPV. When they’re not busy playing “nanny state” with regard to social issues they are consumed with implementing middle class wealth transfers for political means. I don’t know the right word to describe the opposite of libertarian but “RPV leader” comes pretty close.

    Yes, taxes will go up with the Dems. However, they will also cut back on some key “nanny state” stupidity of the Republicans.

    The best a libertarian can hope is that legalized marijuana, casinos, legalized sports betting, etc will raise at least some of the Democrats’ voracious appetite for other people’s money.

    • I had the displeasure of attending the 2016 RPV convention in Harrisonburg.

      What a mess. These idiots can’t even run a convention, and they think they can run government?

      Never again. I am DONE with that clown show.

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