HJR 723

Special Task Force Examining the Impact of the Standards of Accreditation on Local School Division Budgets

November 20, 2001, Richmond

Members of the HJR 723 Joint Subcommittee attended the November 20 meeting of Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to hear the presentation by Robert B. Rotz, senior division chief, on the findings and recommendations of the JLARC Standards of Quality (SOQ) funding study. Following the presentation, members convened for discussion and a question-and-answer period with Mr. Rotz.

Discussion focused on several JLARC findings, including those addressing the adequacy of the current Standards of Quality in light of prevailing school division practices, funding of teacher salaries using the linear weighted average, the constitutionally mandated shared responsibility for funding the SOQ, and the use of locally generated revenues in calculating the costs of providing SOQ programs.

"Hidden" costs in the Standards of Accreditation were also noted. Elementary school resource teachers in art, music and physical education are not included in the Standards of Quality; however, the SOA provide that "each [elementary] school shall provide instruction in art, music, and physical education and health." While most school divisions employ elementary music, art, and physical education resource teachers to meet this requirement, this staffing is not cited in the SOQ and is therefore not included in the funding model.

In addition, the SOA require one class period daily for instructional planning time for full-time secondary school teachers and for middle school teachers with more than 25 class periods per week. This concept is not addressed in the Standards of Quality staffing ratios. The JLARC study found that incorporating such a planning period would require funding for a 21:1 ratio, rather than the existing 25:1.

Pursuant to Article VIII, § 5 of the Virginia Constitution and § 22.1-18 of the Code of Virginia, the Board of Education is to annually report to the General Assembly regarding the "condition and needs" of public education in the Commonwealth. In addition, the board is to identify any school divisions and specific schools that have "failed to establish and maintain schools meeting the existing prescribed standards of quality." This practice has not been followed in recent years; however, the board has recently indicated its plans to conduct a review of the SOQ "from time to time, but no less than once every two years."

Also discussed was the Commonwealth's practice of subtracting locally generated revenues "from the top" in calculating the costs of providing an education program meeting the Standards of Quality. Gaps in funding of certain administrative personnel were also noted, as were constitutional concerns regarding the Commonwealth's responsibilities for the Standards of Quality and the apportionment of responsibilities to localities.

Possible modifications to the composite index of local ability-to-pay, reflecting population density (to address those areas that may have higher demand for other services due to higher density) as well as median income levels (to accommodate those divisions with only a few taxpayers with high incomes) were discussed.

Task force members agreed to seek local input regarding the JLARC report and to submit any potential recommendations to staff for collation and subsequent distribution to task force members. An additional meeting may then be scheduled to finalize any task force recommendations.

The Honorable Flora D. Crittenden, Chair
Legislative Services contact: Kathleen G. Harris


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