School boards seeking more funds from state
 
By Nancy Lindsey
The Patrick County School Board is joining school boards across the commonwealth of Virginia in asking the General Assembly to raise the level of state funding to localities.
Dr. William Sroufe, division superintendent, told the school board Dec. 11 that the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) is encouraging all school boards to pass a resolution requesting higher funding for public schools.
The school board voted unanimously in favor of the resolution, which states that the Virginia Constitution requires the General Assembly to "provide for a system of free public elementary and secondary schools for all children of school age" and to maintain a high quality of education.
The resolution cites a number of problems with the current status of educational quality, including: "Virginia schools in challenging environments are almost entirely located in high poverty areas with unemployment that far exceeds the state average and low per-capita family incomes," and Virginia's state aid to public education has been declining since the 2009 recession with state direct aid K-12 appropriations currently at $6.8 billion...compared to $7.1 billion in fiscal year 2009."
K-12 funding has been reduced from 35% of the general fund in 2009 to below 30% in 2014 and beyond, the resolution states.
"Virginia continues to provide for special interest tax preferences and loopholes, while reducing its financial obligations to public education," the resolution states. "The state's reduction in funding for K-12 has occurred through policy changes since FY 2009, such as reduced state funds for school 'support' personnel and administrative and employee benefits."
In 1987, the voters of Virginia approved the establishment of a state-operated lottery for the purpose of providing funding for public education, the resolution states, and also approved a constitutional amendment in 2000 which required lottery proceeds to be distributed to localities to spend on public education.
"Instead of additional resources for public education, 100% of lottery proceeds now supplant general fund revenues to support public education," the resolution states.
The resolution says that localities have paid for the increased costs of education required by state mandates, "with localities currently paying 56% of the state v. local share of public education rather than the 45% they should be paying as defined by the Standards of Quality."
In 2013, localities budgeted $3.55 billion above their state-required local effort to maintain the actual costs of public education, the resolution states.
In addition, the resolution says, "the number of at-risk students in Virginia's schools has significantly increased to the point where more than one-third of K-12 students are now free lunch-eligible and seven percent reduced lunch-eligible, thereby increasing the need for more personnel and material resources to help them."
The resolution calls upon the Virginia General Assembly to "immediately increase the state's share of funding for public education to the level of quality that is prescribed by them in the Standards of Quality and expected by all of the Commonwealth's citizens."
In other matters at the Dec. 11 school board meeting:
*The board voted unanimously to approve the changing of signs at Hardin Reynolds Memorial School to reduce the speed limit from 25 mph to 15 mph.
The change was recommended by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to improve safety conditions when students cross Dogwood Lane from the main building to the gym.
Sroufe said some areas allow higher fines to be imposed on drivers convicted of speeding in a school zone.
Sroufe said the board appreciates the efforts of the Patrick County Board of Supervisors and especially Dr. Lock Boyce, Peters Creek District supervisor, in trying to improve the situation.
Blue Ridge District member Ronnie Terry, chairman of the school board building committee, said the board needs "to keep it on the table as far as getting the road closed, no matter how many signs we put up."
The school board has been discussing the possibility of closing the road during school hours for a couple of years.
*The board approved the 2015 school board meeting schedule. Meetings will generally be held on the second Thursday of each month.
The first meeting of the new year will be held at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 15, at the school board office. The meeting will move to the Patrick County High School library at 6 p.m. for a public input session on the 2015-2016 school budget.
A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held at 6 p.m. on March 12 at the PCHS library. Most other meetings will be held at 5:30 p.m. at the school board office.
*The board also approved the school calendar for 2015-2016, with school starting for students on Aug. 12 and ending (unless there are inclement-weather days) on May 20.
*Following closed session, the board approved the following personnel matters: April McKinney was hired as a teacher at Meadows of Dan Elementary School; Shannon Brookway was transferred from substitute teacher to teacher assistant at Woolwine Elementary School; and James Vaughn was transferred from part-time to full-time custodian at PCHS.
The board also accepted the resignation of Shannon H. Brown, social studies teacher at PCHS. Taylor Marshall was appointed assistant varsity baseball coach at PCHS, and Braden Nester was appointed assistant junior varsity baseball coach.
The board approved the transfer of Wendy Wilson from special education teacher assistant at Patrick Springs Primary School to special education teacher at PSPS.