York Leaders Team Up to Advocate for More State Education Funding

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York County Administrator Neil Morgan and YCSD Superintendent Victor Shandor co-authored a letter regarding K-12 state funding. (Photos courtesy of York County)
York County Administrator Neil Morgan and YCSD Superintendent Victor Shandor co-authored a letter regarding K-12 state funding. (Photos courtesy of York County)

York County’s administrator and schools superintendent have co-authored a letter calling on the state to work toward restoring K-12 funding to pre-recession levels.

In the letter, County Administrator Neil Morgan and York County School Division Superintendent Victor Shandor explain how declining state contributions to public education have forced many localities, including York County, to put fewer local dollars toward public safety and infrastructure.

In York County specifically, Morgan and Shandor write local funding for education has been increased by $6.5 million since 2009 all while state funding has declined by $4.9 million.

“In a rapidly changing world in which everyone is talking about work force readiness and global competition, the Commonwealth of Virginia has been missing in action when it comes to supporting its most important asset – its public school system,” Morgan and Shandor write. “Instead, it has created a dynamic in which local governments and school divisions confront each other and squabble over how to carve up the local government tax base that is still largely dependent on property taxes.”

Read the Full Letter

Morgan said he and Shandor joined forces to write the letter to show that York County’s government and school division are not at odds – rather, they agree “Virginia can do better.”

“We wanted to show this is not a ‘them vs. us’ thing, the county government against the school division,” Morgan said. “We both see the problem in similar terms.”

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe presented his proposed budget for fiscal years 2017 and 2018, which includes a new investment in education that exceeds $1 billion, to the General Assembly’s money committees Dec. 17.

Leaders from Urban Crescent localities, which stretch from Northern Virginia through Richmond to Hampton Roads, assert the commonwealth has reduced the amount public education funding for localities by more than $1 billion since FY 2009.

The Urban Crescent is collecting signatures for a letter they intend to submit to the General Assembly that outlines their concerns about the effects of declining state funding, noting that funding on a “per pupil inflation adjusted basis” has gone down from $4,275 in FY 2009 to $3,655 in FY 2015.

Eric Steigleder, special assistant for communications to the Secretary of Education, said McAuliffe hosted eight round table meetings with education stakeholders across the commonwealth earlier this year. The feedback McAuliffe heard “set the stage” for making education the top priority in his proposed budget, Steigleder said.

“We’ve heard from our constituents, advocates, parents, teachers, students, administrators, school board members, pretty much everyone across the board that localities have been struggling since the recession and this budget aims to address that,” Steigleder said.

Sill, City of Williamsburg Mayor Clyde Haulman, who co-chaired the Dec. 11 Urban Crescent meeting when K-12 funding was discussed, said McAuliffe’s proposed budget is a “partial step” in the right direction.

“I think the governor’s budget begins to address some of those shortfalls … but it still leaves important gaps as a result of the decrease since 2009,” Haulman said.

He shared Morgan and Shandor’s concern about the distribution of local funds as a result of the reduced state contribution to education. He added K-12 education is a key issue for localities outside the classroom as well, as the quality of an area’s school division is a critical economic development tool.

“Many companies and many individuals, when they’re choosing to locate someplace, schools are a big part of that decision, to the extent the state having pulled back its funding, it’s making it difficult for localities across the state to provide the kind of education companies and individuals are looking for,” Haulman said.

While Morgan called McAuliffe’s proposal a “down payment” toward restoring funding, he said the General Assembly’s action on the budget will determine if the governor’s commitment can materialize.

“We can’t just be the ATM machine for the state all the time and that’s the place we’ve gotten to,” Morgan said.

The General Assembly will convene for its 2016 session Jan. 13.