According to Victoria Cobb, President of The Family Foundation of Virginia, car manufacturers are not the only ones being dragged down by organizations with a choke hold on their pocketbook...
An Expanding Budget in Rough Economic Times?
"Later this week, members of the House of Delegates and state Senate will gather in separate enclaves in Virginia to discuss the Commonwealth’s estimated $2.5 billion “shortfall” in budget revenue. Much of the problem stems from exaggerated revenue projections when the economy was clearly headed for recession. As you and I cut our family and business budgets, there aren’t many things that are off limits. Unfortunately, that isn’t necessarily true for government.
Can you guess which Virginia state department’s budget is described below?
- $4 to 5 billion more than any other department’s annual budget
- 39 percent of the 2007 state budget
- Structurally designed to prevent budget reductions or even slow budget increases
If you guessed Virginia’s Department of Education (DOE), then congratulations! You won. And speaking of winning … so has the DOE under our current budget structure.
Consider these two statistics:
- The DOE was 39 percent of the state’s budget in 2007, but the DOE’s budget increase from 2007 to 2008 accounted for 57 percent of the total state budget increase. Its important to note that enrollment did not increase by such magnitude!
- Unless altered, the DOE’s budget will increase another 6 percent in 2009.
The DOE’s budget increases very quickly, however, Governor Kaine has already stated that, despite the revenue shortfall, public education is off the table in the current round of budget reductions.
In fact, even when legislators hint at simply reducing the rate of increase for public education, the maelstrom of anger from the Virginia Education Association and other educrat entities quickly subdues elected officials. The DOE’s state budget is increasing 18 percent more than what would be proportionally expected.
Not all state departments have the same good fortune as the DOE. For example, from 2007 to 2008, the Department of Natural Resources experienced a 36 percent decrease in their budget. Even the Technology Department, a department many would expect to have an expanding budget due to development and growth in the field, was relegated a 6 percent decrease from 2007 to 2008.
The annual boost in the DOE’s budget is driven by a faulty and antiquated SOQ (Standards of Quality) formula increasing funding due to growth in hiring as opposed to growth in student achievement or enrollment. Virginia is, in fact, one of only four states that funds public education based on staffing and not on number of students. Even in school districts with decreasing enrollment, funding increases!
Without a revision of the SOQ formula, the DOE’s budget will continue to rise year after year at an exponentially higher rate than we can sustain. We can continue to adequately fund public education but not at the rate that the VEA demands. Simply put, we cannot continue to increase spending in this area by $1 billion every biennium budget without a massive tax hike. Of course, some in Richmond know that and will push for that increase in the “name of the children” eventually. To oppose such an increase will be deemed anti-child.
In this time of economic uncertainty, it is even more important that government be fiscally responsible. The Department of Education’s budget should be just as vulnerable to state budget adjustments as any other department in order to return Virginia to economic stability. Education funding should be tied to education outcomes. The SOLs do not in anyway influence funding…and they should.