Local Commentary

Senator Dick Saslaw’s Richmond Report

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Funding for Public Education

An issue that constantly plagues our Commonwealth is funding for public education. Last month the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission released a report showing that Virginia’s schools have fewer resources and higher needs than at any other time in recent history. Our classrooms are larger, the teacher retention is a challenge and the curriculum is out of date.

In 2014 localities fronted 56% of school spending, or $3.6 billion beyond their requirement. This is especially an issue in those areas that lack the resources to make up the shortfall. The reason for this lack in funding is because of the state’s watered down funding formula that was put in place at the beginning of the recession. All of this culminates with Virginia’s local governments paying more for public education than 39 other states.
Currently, school districts have to make choices between cutting funds for instruction, teacher support services and/or buildings. We are one of the wealthiest regions in this nation. Thankfully, this wealth has provided our students with a world class education that keeps us globally competitive. Make no mistake about it, when it comes to businesses coming to Virginia, an educated work force often seals the deal.

At the state level, we are spending significantly less on students today than in 2005, which is problematic because our students have more needs now than in prior years. Sadly, the poverty rate has increased by 45% and the number of students with limited English proficiency has increased by 69%. It is an unrealistic expectation our schools will remain competitive if we do not act prudently. Investing in our children’s education is essential when it comes to diversifying and growing Virginia’s economy. This is a message I have shared many times and will continue to fight for as we form the biennial budget in the 2016 session of the General Assembly.

Elections

In addition to electing our local officials, this Nov. 3 we have the opportunity to elect all 140 members of Virginia’s General Assembly. We have the choice between supporting candidates who believe in Governor McAuliffe’s vision of a prosperous and diversified Virginia economy, and those who only wish to stand in the way of progress. Whether it is bringing needed funding for our infrastructure or fighting to maintain Virginia’s pro-business climate, I have continuously fought to make our district the best possible.

Sadly there has been a downward trend with voter turnout for these off year elections. In 1991 voter turnout for legislative-only elections was 49%, however, 2011 voter turnout was down to 29%. We need you to vote. This year’s election determines not only the makeup of the General Assembly in Richmond, but also city council, board of supervisors, school boards and lots of other local positions that have an impact on our daily lives.
Absentee voting has already started and there is still time to register to vote if you have not done so yet. More information can be found on the various websites.

It is my pleasure to serve as your State Senator, and I look forward to the opportunity to once again represent Senate District 35 in Richmond.

 


Senator Saslaw represents the 35th District in the Virginia State Senate. He may be emailed at district35@senate.virginia.gov.

Comments

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One Comment

  1. FC Government Watch

    Senator, though your article speaks of “prosperity” and “diversification” as being our Governor’s vision for Virginia, I really don’t swallow this rosy endorsement wholesale. McCauliffe frequents events in this town, rubbing elbows with our elected officials; most recently the breaking of ground to build an “I see dead people” facility, a.k.a., Phil Duncan’s end of life and dementia specialized nursing home, as it was recently coined, to appear soon right on our cheery little main street. This project never ever once was represented as what it in fact is. It was sold to the public as being an “assisted living facility”, and even then it was a very hard sell. That’s not called “diversification”. It’s called lying to residents. And somehow, despite many protests by residents, it was foisted upon us, and heralded by our politicos and the Governor.

    “Prosperity” and “progress” and diversification” all seem to be used interchangeably by pro-development politicians. These three buzz-words are mere codes for pro-development favoratism, and specifically, erecting apartment buildings everywhere as far as the eye can see to fund run-away school budgets, to the detriment of city services and infrastructures which have been compromised by years of irresponsible school spending (and most especially in FC). The “mixed-use” monaker has supplanted its’ former lousy civic idea, i.e., “smart growth”, which wasn’t — and the results of which have become an educational precedent informing the many civic groups that have recently formed across our entire metro area to fight off: a veritable onslought of developer-incentives-driven and entrenched-elected-officials-supported steroidal apartment building, run-awayand poorly of even falsely justified school budgets, traffic congestion, pollution, over-population, burgeoning taxes that cater to young people versus older residents, These groups are most interesting because they are all pan-partisan, bucking a trend of fierce partisanship of late. What csn this mean? That a lot of people all across our region are NOT happy with the types of developments and placements of such in residential areas that are sure to overcrowd schools.

    Loose statistics are everywhere being foisted onto the public about how great and prosperous this mixed-use developing will be, rivaling Don Trump’s ridiculous claims for making America great again with empty and ungrounded promises. Prosperous for whom?, I would ask. Developers? Elected power brokers? Entrenched politicians, some of whom may be involved in shell-game budgetary kick backs? So eager has our Council and School Board been in pitching their questionable claims and skewed mercurial budgets, not to mention pitching these cronies in this propaganda -peppered “newspaper”.

    In this same edition of the FCNP we have an article lamenting predatory lending in Virginia. Yet this tiny city has at least 5 of them, possibly more. One of them just purchased prime property on Main street and will build (what else) yet more apartments. That about sums up the ethical picture in this city. Perhaps we can supplant the term “mixed-use” with “mixed-abuse”.

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