Money Matters

Two articles in today’s Washington Post highlight upcoming debates on spending priorities at both the state and local level. There is a connection.

Bill Turque surveyed Washington Metro localities in the wake of slowing growth for their golden goose:

Despite signs of a cooling real estate market, most area homeowners will see hefty increases in property assessments when notices go out early next year, leaving them once again with fattening equity but bigger tax bills, officials said.

… officials increasingly are looking at what would happen if the housing market flattens so significantly that it no longer provides enough tax money to underwrite steady growth in spending. Some have instructed their staffs to craft proposed budgets that cap expanded spending.

A cap on spending? The reaction to that will be telling.

At the state level, reporter Maria Glod examines the chances for Governor-elect Tim Kaine to get the funding he seeks for universal pre-kindergarten. Lawmakers say pre-K will compete for funding with transportation and other priorities that constituents say are more pressing.

This might be deal-breaker in light of the possibility that localities will cut spending:

Kaine’s plan will build on an existing state-funded program that serves about 11,300 children.

State officials said 25 localities didn’t seek funds for the program this year, largely because there was no space for classes in public schools or local governments didn’t provide required matching funds.

It’ll be tough to cut spending, or even keep it flat, if a massive new program is imposed. Of course, since Georgia and Oklahoma have pre-K, expect to see the “shame on Virginia” card played.


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11 responses to “Money Matters”

  1. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Will, Chris Braunlich has contributed an informative column on the topic of “universal pre-K,” which will be published in tomorrow’s Rebellion. Look for it. I think this issue is shaping up as a big one in the 2006 session.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    The key is whether Governor Warner includes funding for all or part of the initiative in his introduced budget bill. If he doesn’t, finding a couple hundred mill with all the other requests will be doubly hard. If he does, then watch the legislative knives come out as they debating spending the money somewhere else.

    It would be easier to sell pre-K if Virginia was making more progress on doing away with the most wasted year for most kids — senior year in HS. It is pretty obvious that the justifications for holding kids out of school until five are not what they were 100 years ago. Let everybody in early, and shove them on to college or a trade school a year earlier.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    How about the justification of letting a kid be a kid, instead of priming the igniter on becoming earlier competition for the revenue mill?

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    Does anyone know the long term pre-k success for children who are not learning disabled? When we were considering a private pre-k program for my daughter five years ago it was nothing more than a half day of free daycare. Are they really learning in the public pre-k?

    What does universal mean? Are they looking at making it mandatory for all children or would it still be up to the parents? Is it for all children or just learning disabled children?

    If the program is successful and they’re going to make it mandatory for all children, then why not just lower the kindergarten age? That would, in effect, eliminate the senior year so no new schools or teachers would need to be funded.

    I’m not saying I would agree with it. My daughter was not ready at 4 for the pressures of a structured learning program but she did know her numbers and ABCs. There were other children in the kindergarten class that came in without this knowledge but they seem to be doing fine now. They’re all in the sixth grade just like my daughter.

    I’m a big supporter of education and I think there needs to be more funding or more efficient spending in the public school system but I’m not so sure I agree on this one. I guess maybe I just don’t know enough about the long term benefits.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    I may be showing a bias here, but the question is really not about whether the children of posters to this blog NEED another government-funded program. They don’t. I am willing to bet that more than 95% of the folks who post here are college graduates with comfortable incomes who have both the means and the time to ensure that their kids have the attention and building blocks necessary to prepare them for school.

    When I heard Kaine speak on this issue, he was more focused on the kids of parents who are above poverty level, and not qualifying for the current program, but also not having the time (due to multiple jobs in many cases) or resources to put their kids in a program that does more than just changes their diapers, feed them, and put them down for a nap.

    If that’s where he’s headed, that is eminently justifiable, as the research shows kids who get some basic prep before age 5, when their brains get “hard-wired” are much, much more likely to succeed in school.

    And that is a big winner, not only for kids, but for taxpayers, who spend less on remedial instruction down the road. And, as a kicker, it’s better for the economy since new workers have the skills they need.

    There is plenty of data out there to prove the correlation. The key is to focus the dollars where they need to go, and to include existing private and religious pre-school programs, and to ensure licensed day care programs have the focus they need.

    This is more about tools and focus than more bureaucracy.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    Will,

    Are you the product of private or public elementary and secondary education? Private or public college? If you attended a private college in Virginia, did you accept a TAG grant?

    I attended Head Start, public K-12, public college, and had a TAG grant in grad school. I am more than willing to pay my share for kids to get a good education, and that is defined by the times — since kids in India are getting a better education than ours in Virginia are getting today.

    I’ll play the shame on you card. I’m not shy.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    I don’t think it matters if you are the product of public or private schools. I’ve had children in various school systems for the last 22 years and things have changed quite a bit. And yes, I was a single mom, working at least 2 (sometimes 3) jobs and going to 1 college course at a time on Saturdays. I am very aware of the struggles. I was even fortunate enough to be able to send one of my children to a private catholic school for a few years.

    Whether private or public it takes a tremendous amount of parent involvement for students to succeed. It doesn’t matter if you are poor or wealthy. Back in the day, if a student was struggling, the student, the teacher and the parents worked harder together. Not anymore. It seems in today’s school system if a student is struggling the first action is to test for some sort of learning disability to keep them from screwing up the SOL scores. The children seem to be calves in a herd. I can’t even get the teachers to send home some extra practice work. If a kid doesn’t understand something they are told “ask someone else, we don’t have time.”

    My point is if parents are unable to find the time to get these children prepared for kindergarten and the schools are unable to continue support for them after pre-K, who is going to get them through the next 12 years? Teaching them ABC’s and 123’s is nothing compared to algebra, geometry, and science!

    I’m not saying the pre-K is a bad idea, I’m just saying we still need to do more. It’s not nearly enough.

  8. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    If Pre-K is mandatory, then I’ll be against it. If Pre-K is voluntary, then I need to see the details with all their little devils.

  9. Will Vehrs Avatar

    Anonymous 5:18, I don’t know why you have to get personal. I wasn’t expressing a value judgement on the “shame on Virginia” card, just pointing out that frequently Virginia is compared with Mississippi or some other “poor” state when it someone is trying to get the state to spend more money.

    Because you’re so interested, I did not attend kindergarten, attended public schools in Prince William County (in 2nd grade, schools were so overcrowed, I only went half a day–can you imagine a school system doing that today?)and then attended the College of William and Mary. I did not receive a TAG grant. All of my children attended public school and half-day, 3xweek private pre-school.

    In my opinion, greater educational opportunities for the children of less affluent families is a good idea, but how far past existing Head Start cut-offs is the issue.

  10. Hey y’all, before going off any further on the TAG grant, let me remind you that the average subsidy for Virginia residents at public colleges and unniversities is more than three times what TAG is.

    Whether you like the concept or not, it is bargain in that assists another 20,000 students to go to a four-year college for a third cost.

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    I’m anonymous 5:18 and I apologize to Will and the community for the intemperate nature of my remarks. The “shame on you, Virginia” remark hit home with me, and perhaps I have a thin skin on that.

    From birth I have been raised to believe that no matter what the issue, Virginia has the capacity to be better and smarter — not because of our DNA but because we have a history of such.

    And I have little tolerance for those who suggest that mediocrity or merely “above normal” is acceptable in any category.

    Not that you meant that, Will. It just that it struck me that way.

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