Unfunded mandates on schools

I came across this article this morning on Potomac Local (http://potomaclocal.com/2015/07/26/education-policy-based-on-results-not-rhetoric/). This is not meant to disparage Delegate Lingamfelter, or discredit any of his points about his advocacy for public education in the General Assembly. I know Scott Lingamfelter, and I also know his wife Shelly, a retired school teacher. Scott learned early on the most important "yes ma'am" he can give is to his wife, and she has been a trusted advisor to him with regards to education in the Commonwealth.

While the points Del. Lingamfelter writes about are very valid and have been beneficial to public education in the Commonwealth, I remain concerned about the unfunded mandates the state government puts on localities that do a lot of harm to public education.

In 2012 the General Assembly passed a budget that pushed down a significant burden on local school districts; one of which many (like Stafford) are still paying for. In that budget the state put a burden on localities to pay 5% of employees VRS contributions by way of calling that 5% a raise for employees. The state did enable localities 5 years to meet this burden, which Stafford County Public Schools has taken advantage of. The cost to the school division has been around $1million a year. FY17 will hopefully be the last year SCPS has to budget for this state mandate.

The state has also adopted extremely well meaning legislation, but have failed to help school divisions cover the increased costs. Two such items are requirement for schools to be equipped with automated defibrilators and requirement for school divisions to provide lactation rooms for employees who are new mothers. Both of these examples actually originated in Stafford County and I support both. However, when the state passes legislation to mandate items such as this they do not provide school districts with funding to meet the mandate. School districts are forced to redirect local money, to meet the mandates, that should go to improving our classrooms, compensating teachers, and improving our instructional technology.

I would like to see the General Assembly recognize when mandates they push down on localities and local school district there is a cost to local education. The General Assembly needs to demonstrate their commitment to public education by paying for the mandates that are costing our schools to increase class sizes, reduce pay increases on teachers and decrease our ability to spend local money to provide 21st century classrooms.

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