By Veronica Garabelli
VCU Capital News Service
RICHMOND, Va. – Gov. Bob McDonnell announced Monday that he would undo a freeze on an education funding formula that would have taken money from more affluent school districts and given it to less affluent ones.
“The decision to continue to update the Local Composite Index is one that I reached after extensive meetings with my finance staff, legislators, and local government officials,” McDonnell said in a press release.
“Ensuring that we have a fair formula that is implemented without regard to temporary or political considerations is the best means by which to appropriate education funding in the Commonwealth.”
The freeze was proposed in December by then-Gov. Tim Kaine. It met opposition from counties in Northern Virginia that would have benefited if the formula were re-calculated.
On Jan. 22, McDonnell’s press secretary, Stacey Johnson, told Capital News Service in an e-mail that the governor planned to uphold the freeze. But she backed away from the statement four days later, saying it was still under consideration.
The Local Composite Index is a formula that determines how much school funding a county or city would get from the state government.
The LCI assigns each school division a score, such as “.75” or “.51,” based on the locality’s adjusted gross income, taxable retail sales and property tax base. The lower its score, the more money the locality gets from the state government for basic education, and vice versa.
The LCI scores for Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties have dropped, meaning those school divisions were due to get more state funding. Fairfax County was set to receive $61 million; Prince William County, $22 million; and Loudoun County, $34 million.
Kaine’s decision to freeze the LCI meant the localities wouldn’t receive those funds.
Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff McKay, who lobbied against the proposed LCI freeze, was glad to hear of McDonnell’s decision.
“I think it shows that common sense and good government can prevail,” McKay said in an e-mail to Capital News Service. “Of course, we’re not out of the woods yet on state funding for K-12 and it remains to be seen what the general assembly does to balance the budget.”
Delegate Mark Keam, D-Vienna, said Northern Virginia legislators urged teachers, children and taxpayers to ask McDonnell to reverse the freeze.
“I’m sure he heard from many, many people,” Keam said. “He made the right decision, based on whatever rationale he used, and I’m glad he did so.”
McDonnell said that this update to the budget will cost the state $29 million in the 2011 fiscal year. The governor said he will recommend that the General Assembly transfer money from a variety of other funds to cover the cost.
Keam said that if the money comes from the other sources, localities that would have benefitted from the LCI freeze won’t lose money.
“Certainly the money is not coming from poorer counties,” Keam said. “So they shouldn’t have anything to complain about.”