Bell amendment falls short in Richmond & other school news
Legislation to change the state’s funding formula for Charlottesville and Albemarle’s education budgets has failed in Richmond.
Known locally as the “Bell Amendment,” for local sponsor and Albemarle Republican Delegate Rob Bell, the budget amendment would have taken into account the two communities’ 1982 revenue sharing agreement when calculating each locality’s ability to pay for schools.
If passed, the legislation would have transferred $3 million from Charlottesville City Schools to Albemarle County Public Schools. This is the third time the budget amendment has failed.
The revenue sharing agreement is a contract between the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County that prohibits Charlottesville from annexing parts of Albemarle in exchange for yearly payments from the county to the city.
This year, Albemarle sent Charlottesville nearly $17 million. As it stands, the state’s funding formula for public schools is blind to the transfer, so in the state’s eyes, the county appears to have more revenue, and the city less.
“Charlottesville City Schools are very happy the Bell Bill did not move forward,” said Charlottesville School Board Chair Juandiego Wade. “It would have been difficult to find an additional $3 million dollars of cuts in our budget. CCS will continue to work with ACPS to collaborate where we can.”
“While the School Board is disappointed an item we supported failed to move forward,” Albemarle School Board Chair Ned Gallaway said, “we remain very encouraged by the progress of several other items we prioritized, such as SOL reform and opposition to A-F grading of school divisions.”
Charlottesville schools dial in on funding request
The Charlottesville City School Board last week decided to plan for a total operating budget of about $73.7 million—a nearly $3 million jump from last years’ budget.
During the work session, the Board trimmed $369,000 from staff’s proposal by identifying cuts and new revenues. The Board plans to ask City Council for about $45.8 million in local support, school officials said.
Charlottesville is expecting an additional $192,000 from the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI).
Due to the federal sequestration program last year, Charlottesville absorbed about $500,000 in cuts to its Title I and other preschool funding. But Charlottesville invested more local money in preschool last year, and is now eligible for matching funds from VPI.
The board also said it’s saving an additional $191,000 by opting to keep kindergarten and first grade class sizes at Greenbrier and Burnley-Moran elementary schools at their current levels.
CATEC Board undecided on strategic plan
The Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center Board left last week’s strategic plan update with as many questions as answers.
As proposed, CATEC’s strategic plan redesigns the school over the next three to four years into a set of five institutes based on local job demand. The institutes, which would more closely align CATEC with PVCC, include skilled trades, early childhood education, healthcare, and manufacturing and information technology.
But Albemarle School Board member Pam Moynihan questioned whether or not students will be interested in the institutes.
Tom Smith, a former Fluvanna County Public Schools superintendent and one of the consultants mapping CATEC’s future, said students will come if they are presented with a clear path to a job.
Grant Tate, another consultant, said CATEC’s current inability to attract new students is an image problem. The CATEC Board is expected to make a final decision at its March meeting.
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