As the General Assembly rolls on and legislators continue to struggle to find "more revenue" for education, transportation and health care as the economy continues to stagger, once again we're hearing the call for increased taxes on Virginia's families. There's no question that our lawmakers face some tough decisions as the cost of federal health care requirements continue to skyrocket, taking more and more of the state budget, while trying to adequately fund other core services such as transportation. For the past few years, we've heard even the staunchest fiscal conservatives say, "There just isn't any other place to cut in the budget."
Perhaps they need to take a closer look.
One major problem with our state budget is the automatic increases in public education funding through the state's antiquated and complicated Standards of Quality funding formulas, increases that may or may not be necessary.
Interestingly, a recent study from Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice found that Virginia could save more than $2 billion annually simply by limiting the increases in administrative and non-teaching staff to student enrollment. Incredibly, that makes Virginia the worst state in the country in spending on additional educational bureaucracy!
According to the Friedman study, between 1992 and 2009, student enrollment in public schools increased 17 percent while the number of teachers increased 11 percent. Remarkably, during that same period, the number of administrators and non-teaching staff has increased a whopping 100 percent! Amazingly, Virginia also has continued to increase non-teaching positions in areas of the state where enrollment has declined.
Even if report's estimate is only half correct, a $1-billion-per-year-savings is more than some proposed tax schemes would raise to fund transportation.
Every year we hear legislators complain about the bloated bureaucracy of the public education system. Unfortunately, it isn't a matter of simply too many administrators; it is now a matter of extraordinary cost to Virginia taxpayers at a time when we simply cannot afford unconditional, systematic increases in costs. Our families and our teachers deserve better.
Before Virginia families and businesses are asked once again to pony up more money from their ever shrinking budgets, it is time for our elected officials to make some dramatic changes to how we fund public education in Virginia. Until that happens, Virginians should not be asked to sacrifice more in higher taxes.