RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Virginia Department of Education is acknowledging it made a mistake in calculating state aid for K-12 schools, an error that is leaving divisions with less funding than expected.
The error stemmed from a failure to reflect last year’s decision to hold localities harmless from the elimination of the state’s portion of the sales tax on groceries, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. It means local school divisions will receive $201 million less than expected, including $58 million less for the current school year, according to the newspaper.
“It was human error on our part,” said Charles Pyle, spokesman for the Department of Education. “We regret that it was not identified until December.”
State Superintendent Jillian Balow notified superintendents by email Friday, according to the newspaper, and House Appropriations Chairman Barry Knight said he was blindsided by the news Monday.
“I didn’t know anything about it at all until this afternoon,” Knight said. “I’m not very happy. They did not bother to tell Appropriations that the numbers had changed.”
“We need to have some open communication here,” he told the Times-Dispatch. “Now it’s on me, what do we do?”
Accomack County School Director of Finance Beth Onley said Wednesday that at this time it isn’t known how much the County will lose because of this. She said that the calculator used by the State to determine the level of local funding has not yet been sent to the school districts. Onley said that she will not know how much funding will be lost until the House of Delegates and the Senate pass their amended budget. This could occur in the next week.
Onley said that the figures contained in this article are for the whole state and is possible that the effect on the County may not be significant.
Meanwhile, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is asking House and Senate budget leaders to include “the necessary resources” in their spending plans to address an error in a state-provided mathematical formula that led local school divisions to expect more state aid than they were set to receive.
In a letter Wednesday, the governor said the state’s financial position means it can cover the gap and make schools whole. The letter was sent to the leadership of the House and Senate money committees.
Leaders of each indicated in statements Wednesday that they planned to find a way to address the problem, which school officials have said is a serious concern.