Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Will School Board Finally Follow The Law?

This maven has written about the annual school budgeting show in the City of Richmond more times than I care to count. I have repeatedly informed the Superintendent of Schools, the School Board, the Mayor and the City Council that under state law a school district's superintendent and school board are required to submit a budget based on the needs of the school system. Yet, year after year, the superintendent prepares, and the school board approves, a budget not based on need, but based on an assumption of how much money the city council will provide to Richmond Public Schools in the budget year. This year, so far, has been no different. As reported in today’s Richmond Times Dispatch, by reporter Will Jones, “The [Superintendent's] proposed operating budget . . . assumes no change in the city’s appropriation of $124.2 million.”*

What exactly is it that the law requires? Section 22.1-92 provides:

A. It shall be the duty of each division superintendent to prepare, with the approval of the school board, and submit to the governing body or bodies appropriating funds for the school division, by the date specified in § 15.2-2503 [April 1], the estimate of the amount of money deemed to be needed during the next fiscal year for the support of the public schools of the school division. The estimate shall set up the amount of money deemed to be needed for each major classification prescribed by the Board of Education and such other headings or items as may be necessary.

Clearly, the law obliges the superintendent and the school board to submit to the governing body (in our case the Richmond City Council) a budget that specifies the amount of money “deemed to be needed . . . for the support of the public schools of the school division.” To this maven, “deemed to be needed” does not mean “what we expect you to give us.” It is the amount that the superintendent consulting with the school board believes the school system needs to provide a quality education to the children of the school district.

Last year I talked to you about the actions of the school board in Fairfax County, Virginia. A School Board That Does Its Job. I explained that the school superintendent in Fairfax had prepared a budget based on the anticipated revenues that the system would receive from both the commonwealth and the county. The school board amended the budget submitted by the superintendent, restoring many of the cuts he made and requesting $82 million more from Fairfax County. As I indicated, the chair of the school board justified its actions as follows: “Our responsibility is to provide an effective school system. We know what it takes for us to be successful.”

I do not fault Dr. Yvonne Brandon for the budget she submitted. I assume she was following instructions from the school board. However, at this point I expect the school board to do its job and amend Dr. Brandon’s budget to show the amount that Richmond Public Schools needs to run a successful school system. I am sure that a needs budget will have to request more than $124.2 million. So, School Board, will you follow the law this year?

*There is something strange in that $124.2 million. Last year the Superintendent’s budget indicated a receipt of $127.1 million from the City. If that is correct, than this year’s budget actually assumes a reduction of $3 million in the amount provided by the City of Richmond.

1 comment:

Scott said...

Great post! Keep it up.