The Importance of School Funding in the State Budget

 

When talking with constituents at their doors or at events in the community, one of the most frequent concerns I hear about is school funding.  Northern Virginia's public schools are among the best in the nation, and I know many here take pride in the scholarship, college preparation, athletic programs, and after-school activities our schools provide.

About 46% of all general-fund tax dollars goes to education.  It is by far our largest state expenditure, with other major outlays including health and human services (24%) and police and firefighters (11%).

While all state agencies faced cutbacks due to the economic downturn, I was proud to help save hundreds of millions of dollars in proposed cuts to schools.  The House of Delegates' plan to cut $700 million from schools was negotiated down to less than $200 million by the Senate.  I also stood up on the Senate floor in 2010 to demand the state give Northern Virginia's schools what was owed under the current funding formula.  Other members from our region joined me in beating back a proposal to adjust it unfavorably.

So where does the money in our state's general fund come from?  66% of it, or roughly $20 billion, comes from the state income tax.  Another 20.5% comes from the sales tax, while corporate income taxes and other fees (like our ABC store profits) make up the remainder.  Money used for transportation projects comes nearly exclusively from dedicated, transportation-related sources and is stored separately in the state's transportation trust fund, not the general fund.

I believe the Senate has been a careful steward of the Commonwealth's money, and though the economy has not rebounded with the speed many of us had hoped, Virginia ended the most recent fiscal year
with $545 million dollars in surplus funds.

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