Gilmore Speaks Out on School Reform

Former Gov. Jim Gilmore has run a thoughtful piece on educational reform in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star. He makes the point that there is only a loose correlation between per-pupil spending in and educational outcomes. In particular, he focuses on the “Standards of Quality,” an arcane funding formula that drives educational spending significantly higher when the standards are rebenchmarked every year.

Virginia could do better, he suggests, if the state replaced the SOQ formula with a simple, per-pupil funding allowance. Citing research by the Herndon-based Claire Booth Luce Policy Institute, Gilmore says that “a $6,000 per pupil amount–and $7,200 for students with limited English proficiency, living in poverty or having learning disabilities, and $11,400 for severely disabled students–would generate more state funds for all but 13 Virginia school systems.”

He continues: “Changes such as this would free local school systems to have more flexibility in providing educational opportunities based upon actual student needs rather than out-of-date mandates that tie the hands of local school boards and administrators.”

Gilmore also champions school choice, proposing changes to the law that would allow the creation of more Governor’s schools, more charter schools and tuition assistance for private schools.

Discussion of these ideas is way overdue in Virginia, a supposedly “conservative” state that allows pitifully little school choice.


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4 responses to “Gilmore Speaks Out on School Reform”

  1. I believe in accountability and being wise (and tight) with a buck. But before I could support throwing away the SOQs, I’d like to know how this proposal would account for the varying abilities of localities to raise their share of funds for education. If Gov. Gilmore is promising fully funding education by the Commonwealth (and not just a “share”), I might be persuaded.

    But we invented the premise of universal education, and to me that means a child born in Highland has the same right to basic educational opportunity that a child in born in Henrico does. And money does matter.

    For what it’s worth, I like what Tim Kaine says about getting beyond talking about educational minimums and aspiring to excellence. When we start having that discussion, I’ll buy in to setting ceilings.

  2. Lucy Jones Avatar
    Lucy Jones

    Sometimes it seems to me that we should look at education first and then work with the budgets.

    1) Determine the level of education we want for children
    2) Determine a way to test to make sure the level is being met
    3) Determine a way to get ONLY qualified educators and finally
    4) Figure out how to pay for it!

    It always seems like we’re chasing our tails with the education budget. We just dump money in here money in there, test here, test there and we never get anywhere but back where we started.

    I know this is way oversimplified but would it be impossible to just simply agree on what we want our children to achieve and go from there?

  3. El Moderado Avatar
    El Moderado

    Richmond is not like the rest of Virginia. It is a public school system with hundreds of schools and thousands of employees. It’s a large market. The Richmond City school system is so big that the market can probably handle more than one school choice, i.e. charter schools, vouchers, or magnet schools, without making traditional public schools second rate. That’s not the case in smaller school systems.

    In many non-metropolitan communities you have school systems that are composed of a few elementary schools, one or two middle schools and one or two high schools. The markets are small enough in non-metropolitan communities that it makes more sense to devote most of your resources (tax dollars) to fixing existing schools as opposed to giving up on them and opening up charter schools, giving vouchers, or building magnet schools that are publicly funded.

    Charter schools, vouchers, magnet schools, etc., are a good idea under certain circumstances. I just don’t see how they do much good in small, rural communities without making public education a second rate endeavor.

    Regardless, Gov. Gilmore is correct. More money needs to be spent on students in the classroom.

  4. […] worst charter school laws in the country. I’m not holding this against him, but I found only minimal outrage from him when he was in […]

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