In Virginia, it seems like the Department of Education has been doing some creative accounting, and now the state's public schools are facing a $201 million shortfall. Looks like they'll have to start counting their pennies! Oopsie!
Governor Glenn Youngkin's administration confirmed last week that the budget was a bit flawed, and the basic aid calculation tool used to determine funding for schools didn't account for a provision to protect localities from Virginia's elimination of the state portion of the grocery tax. It seems like someone dropped the ball on this one!
So, what does this mean for our schools? Basically, they're in a bit of a pickle. With funding shortfalls projected for the rest of the school year and inaccurate budget estimates for next year, some school divisions have already used these estimates for their own local planning and budgeting purposes. And now, they're finding that the estimates overstated state aid. Whoopsie!
But don't worry, the Virginia Department of Education will release an updated calculation tool later this month that reflects the budgets produced by the Senate and House, so hopefully, this will be sorted out soon. Macaulay Porter, a spokeswoman for the governor, said in a statement, "The administration is continuing to work with all stakeholders, including our school systems and the legislature, to address the VDOE estimation tool error." Phew, that's a relief!
However, rural schools are expected to be hit the hardest by this error as they rely more on state funding than local contributions. Bristol, for example, will have to adjust for receiving approximately $150,000 less than expected in the current fiscal year and $350,000 next year if a solution is not found. That's a lot of dollars attached to salaries, benefits, gas, textbooks, computers, and reams of paper that need to be accounted for. Time to tighten those belts!
Democrats criticized the governor's administration during a press conference on education priorities. "Yesterday is a prime example of how this administration has continuously spent all their manpower hours on ideological MAGA-like policies that take us backward, rather than focusing on policies that take us forward," said Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg. Ooh, burn!
Sen. Ghazala Hashmi called the error "simply outrageous" and described the hold harmless provision as an essential part of last year's decision to eliminate the state portion of the grocery tax. "Now because of an error, Virginia’s public schools, rural and urban, are $201 million in the hole – not to mention the news comes as a surprise to the General Assembly and to local leaders," Hashmi said. Talk about a shocker!
It appears that Virginia's public schools have been dealt a bit of a financial blow, and the Department of Education may need to go back to the drawing board when it comes to their calculations. But with the updated calculation tool on the horizon and the administration working with all stakeholders, we're hopeful that this crisis can be averted and the schools can get back to the business of educating our future leaders. Fingers crossed!