Schools ask for continued funding, more local control at legislative breakfast
Local control and continued state funding topped the School Board’s request list Monday morning at a legislative breakfast between the school system and Virginia lawmakers.
School Board Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) began the breakfast by thanking the lawmakers attending for preventing deep school budget cuts with state funding.
“I would like to thank the Loudoun delegation for their hard work, particularly their restoration of $7 million in funding which came at a very critical time for us,” Hornberger said. “I know it was not easy for you to work together as well as with the other members throughout the state.”
Loudoun County Public School’s 2013 legislative requests include restoring funding for staff to levels before the 2010 state budget and continuing the use the Cost of Competing factor in Loudoun, which provides additional funding to northern Virginia based on area’s cost of living.
The schools’ ask to allow the board to control their academic calendar – when a school year ends and begins.
The current law requires that school boards set the first day after Labor Day, so as not to interfere with tourism in the state, with some exceptions.
Del. Tag Greason (R-32) said he expected a debate in the General Assembly about how much control the state, school boards and parents should be given about where their children attend school.
“A lot of the parents . . . are gonna say local control means control that we have for our students to take the money that we pay to go to the school they want,” Greason said. “The other side of this argument is taking local control down to the family level and that the money is gonna follow the student. I’m not advocating one or the other.”
The School Board and delegates all discussed at length the possibility of full-day kindergarten. Loudoun is one of the few school systems left in the state that still uses an a.m./p.m. system, according to delegates.
Del. David Ramadan (R-87) joked he was the “kindergarten representative” because so many parents in Loudoun had come to him about implementing the program.
School Board member Kevin Kuesters (Broad Run), said he opposed full-day kindergarten, citing studies that didn’t show enough benefits for students to justify the price tag.
“Right now the research does not show that full-day kindergarten benefits kids other than at-risk kids beyond third or fourth grade,” Kuesters said. “There are constituents in Loudoun who do want it and they are starting to send us emails.”
The hiring of new teachers would the school system at least $12 million annually, Loudoun County Public Schools staff told the School Board two weeks ago.
The construction of additions to elementary schools to accomodate the program would cost the system $21 to $50 million depending on the method.
Superintendent Edgar Hatrick told delegates the school system would need to get the $12 million annual costs for the teachers from the state.
School Board member Bill Fox (Leesburg), a proponent of full-day kindergarten, was not present at the meeting.
Thomas Reed (at large) said he was unsure if elementary schools had the space to accommodate full-day kindergarten as the school system continued to add students.
Ramadan said the School Board should consider the program because parents want it.
“Everything I’ve heard from constituents has been about kindergarten,” Ramadan said. “The constituents want this. It’s not the position in my mind, of the School Board or school administrator to say ‘we know better.’”