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December 7, 2016

Key School Funding Trends in Southside Virginia

State investment in Virginia students is still way down from where it was before the financial strain of the recession, after adjusting for inflation. The cuts have impacted schools and services throughout the state, yet the consequences have been particularly pronounced in areas like Southside Virginia that also have declining student populations and high percentages of students from low-income families.

For example, enrollment in Halifax County Public Schools has dropped 14 percent since 2009, while state support has declined by 15.8 percent per student, after adjusting for inflation. This means local governments have to take on a larger share of supporting schools, which can be challenging in areas with declining populations and low property values, or reduce investment in their kids’ education and future workforce.

The story is similar in other school divisions in Southside Virginia, such as Brunswick, Charlotte, Danville, Greensville, Lunenburg, Martinsville, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, and Prince Edward. These facts and trends are highlighted in our latest compilation of data around funding for K-12 education published in an easy-to-read format.

Many of these school divisions also have high percentages of students that are from families that struggle financially. For example, in Halifax County more than 1 in 5 students lives in poverty – meaning their family makes less than the federal poverty threshold of $24,300 for a family of four – and over half of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch. These students can require additional attention and services both in and out of the classroom through no fault of their own in order to reach positive educational outcomes. Lagging resources impedes the ability of schools to provide these vital services, such as one-on-one instruction, counseling, and behavioral supports.

The analysis comes at a critical time as lawmakers seek to preserve some modest increases in education funding adopted in the last budget while also resolving a $1.5 billion revenue shortfall.  The numbers show that we’re still down in supporting Virginia students, and that’s why it’s so vital that lawmakers preserve the progress made in the last legislative session and don’t make further cuts.

Chris Duncombe

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