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August 16, 2017

Key School Funding Trends in Virginia: Statewide and in All 132 School Divisions

The Commonwealth Institute has completed its latest compilation of data on K-12 public schools in short, easy-to-read summary reports. We highlight enrollment, staffing, demographic, and funding trends for each of Virginia’s 132 school divisions and statewide. The analysis comes at a critical time as state lawmakers will be proposing a new two-year budget in which they will make key decisions that determine the future support for Virginia’s public schools.


For Virginia K-12 public schools, state support is still down from before the financial strain of recession, even after progress made in the recent budget. State per-pupil funding for K-12 education has declined 10.7 percent since the 2008-2009 school year, adjusting for inflation. And because of this reduction in state aid, local governments have been forced to provide a larger share of the overall funding for public schools. In total, Virginia localities invested $7.4 billion in the 2016 fiscal year – more than double what the state requires for local effort.

Yet the ability of local governments to fill in for the state cuts varies across communities, and many have not had the available resources to do so. The result, unfortunately, has been schools cutting staff and resources. Statewide, Virginia public schools have 10,423 fewer staff relative to student enrollment than they did before the cuts started.

In the same way that resources vary, each school division’s children have specific needs requiring different levels of support. Often, local governments dealing with revenue challenges have students with unique needs that may require additional services. This is true for Petersburg, Danville, and Richmond City, which each have high rates of child poverty ranging from 38 to 42 percent of school-aged children, well above the statewide average of 14 percent.


Chris Duncombe

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