I was reading the Connection Newspaper this week and saw the most bizarre letter to the editor in a while. In it, Fairfax County School Board members Kathy Smith, Cathy Belter and Tessie Wilson were praising Senator Ken Cuccinelli for his support of securing additional money for K-12 education in Fairfax County. Absent from the letter were the three other school board members who represent Cuccinelli's district- Ilryong Moon, Steve Hunt and Cuccinelli's likely opponent Janet Oleszek.
Fairfax County has a weird thing going on with school funding. On one hand, county residents support fully funding the schools. Generally Fairfax also supports candidates who want to do so. However, when it comes to state funding there is problem, for every tax dollar devoted to education that comes from Fairfax County only twenty cents is returned through the Richmond bureaucracy to Fairfax schools. That's because of a formula called the LCI (Local Composite Index).
So in the letter, the school board members praise Cuccinelli for seeking to change the funding formula- but they point out that other localities that gain from this formula are unlikely to support a change unless the overall money spent on schools increases enough that their new percentage of the formula does not provide a cut in the real dollars they receive. In other words, if Virginia Beach gets 110% back and that is $200 million (this is only an example!) and under a new formula they only get 100% of money back, that amount better be $200 million or the Virginia Beach Delegation will oppose it. Makes sense, right? The only way that math works is if the overall money being spent is higher.
But this is what is so strange. The one thing Cuccinelli has consistently opposed is more education spending. Sure, he supports more money that is already spent coming home to his district (that's a tough position to take), but he doesn't support increasing the overall dollars spent. Thus, praising him for supporting this makes no sense, and shows a complete lack of knowledge from these board members to what his position really is. For example, Mark Warner's 2004 budget did nothing to address transportation because it focused on education. In that budget the new dollars to education were sent through a new formula for school age population. Basically this formula for additional dollars spent it equally per student across the commonwealth and school systems received dollars based on the number of students they were educating. Given that chance to vote for more education money under a formula very favorable to Fairfax County, Cuccinelli voted "No".
So I just don't see how these members can praise Ken for wanting to change the LCI formula, when they acknowledge in the same letter that the only way to change it is through additional funding (*ahem* taxes) which Ken opposes. In short- If the school board position is that you can't change the formula without increasing the overall spending, and Ken opposes increasing the overall spending- then he doesn't support that position! I thought the letter came across as awfully flaky for those signing it, I've just never seen anyone praised by school board members for opposing more school funding. Weird. I think the only thing this letter accomplished was giving a lot of fodder for opponents of Tessie Wilson and Kathy Smith to mock their knowledge on the school issues they are supposed to know about.
UPDATE: Kenton has a map.