The news at this morning’s Senate Finance Committee was good. Virginia’s revenues are exceeding projections by 2.8%. That’s about $470 million more than anticipated. That bodes well for the next biennium. It’s been since 2007 that a Governor has had significant revenue increases to work with when crafting a budget.
On Monday, the Virginia Early Childhood Education Foundation conducted a briefing on a recent research study which addressed the long term benefit of participation in the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI). In addition they have published a FAQ document regarding the study. The key finding is that students who had attended VPI were 4% more likely to be promoted on-time to 8th grade. However, VPI had no influence on 8th Grade SOL test scores. The nugget in the analysis was this: SOL test scores have little predictive value – other important educational outcomes such as student retention, course grades, and attendance are better indicators of students’ long-term school and life success. So I see two takeaways: we need to continue supporting Pre-K education, and we need to completely reassess the role of testing in education.
If you have a primary I surely hope you plan on voting on June 9th. The Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) just released a visualization of primary turnout. Between 1.4% and 16.4% of registered voters participate in primaries. This gives educators the potential of having great power if we all turn out. The VEA Fund for Children and Public Education has only recommended candidates in two of the eighteen primaries: Democrat Daniel Gecker in Senate District 10 and Republican Emmett Hanger in Senate District 24.
The Virginia Association of School Superintendents just did a survey which reveals some very interesting facts. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Steve Staples said in November of 2014 that” Since 2008, K-12 public education has been reduced by 5,000 positions in Virginia.” The VASS survey gives an update and the news is not good. The number is actually 8,001: 3,785 teachers, 232 school-based administrators, 3,701 support staff, and 283 division level administrators. Consider, too, that we have 51,818 more students in our schools today than we did in 2008.
They also detailed the cut back in programs as a consequence of the budget cuts: 47 school divisions have eliminated fine arts programs, 40 divisions have eliminated foreign language programs, 34 have eliminated physical education programs, and 88 eliminated career and technical education programs.Twenty-eight present of divisions have eliminated co-curricular programs: 53 eliminated academic clubs, 45 eliminated student clubs, and 58 eliminated athletic programs.These statistics are not reflective of a state which is putting kids first.The VEA continues to support fair, bipartisan redistricting. We participate in a coalition called OneVirginia2021. The Richmond Times Dispatch’s recent editorials (1, 2) on this topic have been quite good, as was the one in the Staunton News Leader.
Redistricting quote of the week: The point of elections, after all, is to let voters pick their leaders. The act of picking depends on having a choice. But in most of Virginia’s legislative districts, the voters have no choice. - RTD Editorial 05/20/15
Many years ago when I taught in Norfolk, the school board tried to save money by outsourcing student transportation services, it turned into a real nightmare. The bus drivers told the principals that they did not work for them and that they did not need to do what they said. There were all sorts of problems which led to the school system losing a lot of money when the repurchased a new bus fleet to go running their own pupil transportation system. A recent article about the problems Chesterfield County is facing now that they have privatized custodial service led me wonder, “When will they learn?”