By Liz Butterfield, Capital News Service
RICHMOND — Full-time governor’s schools in Virginia are requesting an additional $2.9 million from the state this year to correct a funding disparity in the budget formula between part-time and full-time governor’s schools.
Parent-Teacher-Student Association members of the Appomattox Regional Governor's school and the Maggie Walker Governor's School are leading an advocacy effort proposing the amendments.
The funding formula currently in place gives full-time governor’s schools in Virginia only 15 percent more funding than part-time schools, which is not enough to encourage growth or continued much-needed programs, according to Marianne Macon, advocacy chair of the Maggie Walker PTSA. "In effect, the current formula discourages full-day programs," Macon said. "The state has been providing planning grants for new governor's schools -- new full-day schools -- and the planning is in the works, but the actual realization of the schools -- and the continued possibility of the schools being financially viable for their region -- is really, in my opinion, dependent on the correction of the formula."
House budget item 136 1H and Senate budget item 136 2S are patroned by Delegate Tag Greason, R-Lansdowne, and Sen. Richard Saslaw, D-Springfield, respectively. The items were spearheaded by concerned parents of the schools. “When this was brought to my attention I thought, wow, these are supposed to be the best and brightest of our schools, but yet we’re underfunding them,” Greason said. “I think literally the mechanics of the funding formula have shortchanged the schools so we put in a budget amendment to try and fix that.”
The House version of the budget item requests a study of the funding formula for the schools for a long term solution, Greason said. The budget amendments aim to correct the funding disparity between full-time governor’s schools and part-time governor’s schools in the state, which has been in place for more than a decade, Macon said. If the amendment is added to the budget, $2.9 million would be allotted to the schools for school year 2014-2015 between the three schools.
The budget problems at the schools have been building since 2009, and Maggie Walker still is down about 15 percent in overall revenue funding from state and local funding since 2009, Macon said. "There is such great demand for these schools I think there would be progress in establishing more if the funding was stabilized and equalized," said PTSA advocacy committee member Laura O'Brien.
The additional money would be put towards updating technology, textbooks and needed security changes around the schools, Macon said. The Maggie Walker School has had to cut its part-time security staff and does not have a full-time school resource officer, Macon said. "We've had to cut back in that area," Macon said. The school also has had to pay for recent updates in its security cameras.
Bringing additional funding from the state will allow programs at the Appomattox governor’s school to strengthen, said Sherrill Hankins, PTSA advocacy chair at the Appomattox Regional Governor's School. The funding may go to "maintaining key teachers who will come or are attracted to come teach in these focus areas," she said.
Teacher salaries must be approved by the regional school boards, which vote on their own budgets annually.
The amendments were not included in the governor’s original proposed budget