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Education Budgets Get Short Shrift, Virginia School Boards Say

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Some education advocates are saying that Virginia's new state budget doesn't allocate enough funding toward public education.
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Some education advocates are saying that Virginia's new state budget doesn't allocate enough funding toward public education.

Virginia's legislative session is over, and while public schools were given an additional $2.35 million in this year's budget, representatives of many boards of education in the Commonwealth are concerned that they didn't get enough.

"The state dollars have been declining, the federal dollars have been declining, and it's been put back to the localities to make up that difference," says Barbara Coyle, executive director of the Virginia School Boards Association.

Everyone was pleased when Gov. Bob McDonnell found 2 percent more money for raises to teachers, but some couldn't afford the matching money required to get that cash.

At the same time, Coyle says, the state and federal governments continue to impose requirements like student-teacher ratios, special educations programs, and even nutritional mandates for school meals.

"It's costing local school boards more money to feed the kids," she says. "If it's requiring a local producer or taking away some of the commodities that were provided from the feds, how much is it going to cost them?"

She hopes state lawmakers will pay for what they require in the next session, and she also urged the legislature to allow schools to open before Labor Day.

Virginia is one of just two states that delay the start of classes so tourism has plenty of cheap summer labor. Unfortunately, Coyle says, Virginia high school students are at a disadvantage, because there's no time to refresh and prep for college entrance exams.

"The school systems that start prior to Labor Day tell me what a difference it makes when the test time comes around," says Coyle.

About half of all high schools have requested and received an exemption allowing them to open earlier, and Coyle says the rest should be spared the paperwork and allowed to do what's best for Virginia students.

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