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Schools: Step up to the plate

Increasing state funding a top priority for 2013

By NEESEY PAYNE

neesey@southwesttimes.com

Pulaski County Public Schools has a long list of legislative priorities for the new year. At the top of the school system’s list is an increase in state basic aid funding to offset past reductions for K-12 education.

According to Dr. Thomas Brewster, superintendent, over the past several months Pulaski County School Board has deliberated over the legislative priorities. Brewster said the legislative priorities is “a guiding document for our representatives to consider as they adopt their positions and vote during the General Assembly session.” In forming the priorities, Brewster said the legislative positions of statewide organizations such as the Virginia Education Association, Virginia Association of School Superintendents, Virginia School Boards Association and Virginia Association of Counties were considered, as well.

Last year, the school system faced nearly $700,000 in state funding cuts. That, coupled with unfunded mandates, put the school system in a position of facing tough decisions in what to cut and what to keep. This time around the school system is doing all it can to put a solid budget plan in place.

“Since we are in the second year of the governor’s biennium budget, we have a general idea of what our state funding will be for the second year,” said Brewster.

“However, we are still waiting to find out more information on the fiscal impact of the new health care laws. Plus, there is uncertainty at the federal level with sequestration and the fiscal cliff. We will continue to monitor activity at the federal and state levels to determine if adjustments will need to be made to next year’s budget.”

Brewster said the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., could also have an impact on the budget, however he hopes the state would provide funding for any programs mandated.

“I believe that both the federal and state governments will need to be responsible for providing funding for any school safety initiatives. A safe and secure environment should be a guarantee for all students,” Brewster said.

A list of 12 priorities were presented at a recent session of the school board and unanimously approved by board members.

On that list, the school system supports:

• An increase in state basic aid funding for K-12 public education to offset past reductions and fully fund the Standards of Quality (SOQ) commitments of the Commonwealth.

• State funding efforts to increase salaries and benefits for all teachers, administrators, superintendents and classified staff so that Virginia will be, at the minimum, at or above the national average.

• Allowing local control over the calendar by allowing school boards the option to start school prior to Labor Day.

Maintenance of funding for technology (Virginia Public School Authority) to enable school divisions to meet the needs of online testing and the requirements found in the Virginia Standards of Learning.

• Investment in digital content and infrastructure that supports student learning.

• Reinstatement of full funding for the Western Virginia Public Education Consortium to support and promote collaboration and the sharing of best practices in the school divisions of Alleghany. Bath, Bland, Botetourt, Craig, Floyd, Franklin, Giles, Henry, Montgomery, Patrick, Pulaski, Roanoke, and Wythe and the cities of Covington, Martinsville, Radford and Salem.

• Reinstatement of full funding of the School Construction Program. With nearly three fourths of Pulaski’s public schools building over 35 years old, we have pressing construction and renovation

needs.

• Continuing contract laws and oppose removing continuing contract protections from Virginia public school teachers.

• Consideration of full time funding for the Southwest Virginia Governor’s School contingent upon the feasibility study commissioned by the Virginia General Assembly and the Virginia Department of

Education.

• Funding for newly established Governor’s STEM Academies.

The school system opposes:

• Any move to allow home-schooled children to participate in Virginia High School League activities.

• Efforts to broaden Virginia’s charter school law and weaken school boards’ authority over the process of creating charter schools.

Brewster said during the school board session the school system’s goal is to send a “consistent message so it can continue its role as advocates for children and public education.”

 

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