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End cuts to education spending in Virginia

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GUEST EDITORIAL

Harold Golding is chairman of the Southwest Region, Virginia School Boards Association Board of Directors

“The great aim of education is not knowledge, but action,” the British philosopher Herbert Spencer once wrote.
Today, I urge you to take action to help the education system in Virginia be as strong as it can possibly be. You can make a difference in the future of our children and in the welfare of our communities.
Are you aware that per pupil spending in Virginia has decreased by almost 20 percent since 2007?
To put this in perspective, imagine working a job in 2007 and bringing home $2,000 a month. Now, fast forward four years and imagine doing the same job, the same amount of work, and bringing home only $1600 a month,
We wouldn’t have that, would we? Then why are we allowing the funding for our children’s education to be cut in this same manner?
I am well aware that all states and localities across the nation have had to deal with significant reductions in revenue over the past several years and also that K-12 education is not the only government service that has seen a reduction in funding.
Recognizing these facts, our superintendent, school board members, teachers and administrators have worked hard to minimize the negative impact of budget cuts on students in the classroom. However, we are now stretched to our limits and have to have monies from the government to continue to educate our children.
With the governor’s recent announcement of $152 million in additional state revenue, Virginia’s educators were surprised to learn that the governor proposed cutting funds for K-12 education and were shocked that members of the House of Delegates cut even more.
As a matter of fact, $34 million has been cut for resource teachers in grades 6-7, and $14.5 million dollars was cut for pre-kindergarten programs. More than $49 million in teaching positions have been cut! We cannot let this trend continue!
As if cutting personnel dollars were not enough, school divisions are being asked to do more work with increased, unfunded mandates, including the proposed mandate from the General Assembly that requires all students in grades K-8 to receive physical education for a minimum of 150 minutes a week during the regular school year.
While we all support physical fitness in our students and the value that it has to them, we do not have the monies to hire the additional staff this would require.
Another example of an unfunded mandate is the bill requiring national industry certification for career and technical education programs and personnel.
This mandate, which goes into effect on July 1, 2012, has the potential to limit educational offerings for multitudes of students.
Schools divisions will be obligated to bear increased costs of obtaining program certifications and training for certified personnel.
If the money is not available or certified personnel cannot be recruited, school divisions may be forced to eliminate programs and, in doing so, limit options in preparing students for careers.
I call you to action. Take action for our public education system. How? By contacting your local legislators and letting them know that you do not want any more cuts in education spending.
The time to do this is NOW. Your voice counts — not just for you but for thousands of children who are our future.
Speak out for them. If you are not sure who your legislators are or how to contact them, see http://legis.state.va.us/ and go to “Who’s My Legislator?” Or look in your local phone book under the government section, which lists your legislators.
Make your voice heard. Today. Our children deserve it.