Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Daily Progress on Funding for Charlottesville's Schools

The Progress reports today (the article by Rachana Dixit is here) that the City uses a pre-set funding formula which is not tied to the number of students enrolled in City schools in any given year.

Because enrollment has declined over time, the result is that per-pupil funding has increased significantly: from $8,300 in 1999 to $14,300 this year.

The article is not completely clear on how the funding mechanism works, but my take-away is that education funds are essentially benchmarked at 40% (approximately) of the overall City budget. Because of the huge increase in revenues during the real estate boom, the 40% figure has correspondingly increased -- as the population being served has decreased (4,400 students in 1990, decreasing to 3,900 for 2008).

The article highlights perspectives from several of the "players" in City politics:
  • Dave Norris says he's willing to look at revising the current mechanism but does not have a particular interest in changing it.
  • Rob Schilling criticizes the current system (no surprise there).
  • Gary O'Connell defends it ("[The system] has worked for years and it’s created a partnership between the city and the schools").
  • Barbara Haskins criticizes the system as reflective of an attitude in the City that spending money will fix problems (regardless of the efficacy of specific policies).

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