- The Washington Times - Friday, July 24, 2009

RICHMOND | Virginia would save an estimated $754 million over two years if a funding cap limiting the number of educational support staff, such as custodians and secretaries, remains in place, the state’s Department of Education has projected.

A report presented Thursday to the Board of Education estimated state Direct Aid to Public Education funding for 2010-12 would be $11.9 billion with the cap or $12.7 billion without the cap, according to state education officials.

Kent C. Dickey, assistant superintendent for finance, indicated that keeping a limit recommended by Gov. Tim Kaine of one support staffer for roughly every four teachers would save $376 million in the 2011 fiscal year, and $378 million in the following fiscal year.

The General Assembly backed Mr. Kaine’s recommendation and incorporated the cap into the state budget to save an estimated $341 million for about 13,000 jobs in the 2010 fiscal year, which began July 1. The legislature asked the education department to report projections for 2010-12 with and without the support-staff cap.

Education officials plan to forward their report to Mr. Kaine and the heads of the House and Senate finance committees by Sept. 1. The budget the board presents to Mr. Kaine will set the funding level required under Virginia’s Standards of Quality, state-mandated minimum educational objectives, which drives more than 91 percent of Virginia’s funding for public schools.

The legislature has asked the Board of Education to recommend whether to make the funding cap permanent, which it is not expected to do, under its current biennial review of the SOQ. The standards define staffing ratios for instructional employees, but doesn’t do so for support staff, which include assistant superintendents, nurses, custodians and other non-teaching positions.

Virginia school superintendents, education advocates and teachers have argued against the support-staff cap.

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