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School superintendent gives McAuliffe earful of educational concerns

by Larry Chowning

The notion that Middlesex County is one of the wealthiest counties in Virginia based on the State Composite Index was challenged by county school superintendent Dr. Thomas W. Taylor in a December report to then governor-elect Terry McAuliffe.

“Why does the Commonwealth insist that we are one of the wealthiest communities in the state when the federal government accurately asserts that we are one of the poorest?”
—Dr. Taylor

Jack Miller, chair of the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors, asked Dr. Taylor to write the report. Miller is a member of McAuliffe’s transition team with the job of evaluating specific needs of rural counties.

“The Local Composite Index (LCI) is antiquated and does not index the ‘ability to pay’ of the students and families served by public schools,” wrote Dr. Taylor in his report to McAuliffe. “Presently, the LCI measures local real property values, local gross income, local retail sales taxes, average daily membership of the student population and locality population, and is then benchmarked against state totals in those criterion areas.

“The socio-­economic status of the student population in each locality is not considered in this formula,” wrote Taylor. “For example, in the most recent re-­benchmarking, Middlesex County sits at the top of the LCI with a rating of .7445 (out of a highest rating of .8000), presumably because of our small population and high-valued waterfront property.

“What this formula does not consider is that 70% of our county’s residents are retirement age and on a fixed income, and the high-­valued waterfront property is only owned by a small number of citizens,” wrote Taylor.

“The LCI also does not consider that more than 40% of our students receive free or reduced lunch costs because they live in poverty. The federal government has accurately labeled our county as “rural poor” and we receive Title VI funding for being a rural and low socio-economic community. Why does the Commonwealth insist that we are one of the wealthiest communities in the state when the federal government accurately asserts that we are one of the poorest?” asked Dr. Taylor.

New Formula Needed
Dr. Taylor proposed that the state establish a new funding formula that considers the poverty level of the student population in each locality.

He also addressed inadequate state funding. “The Virginia Standards of Quality do not represent ‘quality’; they are outdated, and are not adequate in helping Virginia’s public school students to become globally competitive.

“Additionally, the Virginia Standards of Quality mandates are not fully funded. Funding for public education in the form of basic aid has shrunk dramatically since the last economic recession. Since 2007, localities have had to pick up the slack or dramatically cut funding,” continued Dr. Taylor.

Read the rest of this story in this week’s Southside Sentinel at newstands throughout the county, or sign up here to receive a print and/or electronic pdf subscription.

posted 02.19.2014

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