Persuading the Virginia General Assembly to change the state formula used to dole out dollars for public education is going to be a tough sell, members of the Richmond delegation to the state legislature told local officials at an annual summit held Wednesday afternoon.
The formula, known as the Local Composite Index, determines how much revenue a city or county can devote to its public school system. It relies heavily on local property values and a locality’s tax revenue. Among its critics are Mayor Dwight C. Jones, Superintendent Dana Bedden and Mayor-elect Levar Stoney, who say it’s inequitable. They point to Richmond’s wealthier neighbors, Chesterfield and Henrico counties, receiving more state funding per pupil than the city as evidence that the formula is out of whack.
“The LCI needs to be revised to include the additional demands on a division’s available resources required to serve a large at-risk student population,” City Council President Michelle Mosby said in her opening remarks.
Reconfiguring the LCI is among several requests included in Richmond City Council’s legislative proposals for the 2017 General Assembly session, which starts in January. At Wednesday’s summit, however, state lawmakers in attendance said it’s unlikely the General Assembly will take action on the matter.
“It’s not necessarily a partisan thing, it’s more of a regional-type thing,” said Del. Manoli Loupassi, a Republican representing the 68th District. “Whenever you talk about changing something, someone is going to win, someone is going to lose. Nobody really knows when you open [the LCI] up, who’s going to win and who’s going to lose, so they’re not dying to change it but so much.”
Del. Jennifer McClellan, a Democrat who represents the 71st District, said representatives from Southwestern Virginia have been hesitant to take up the issue in the past because they’re worried their districts would suffer most if the state adjusts the LCI.
“The practical reality that we’re facing is everybody agrees that the formula as it is now doesn’t work, but not enough people are willing to take a risk … we can’t even get it out of committee,” McClellan said.
In attendance at Wednesday's summit were six of the nine current council members. Missing were outgoing Councilwoman Kathy Graziano (4th District), as well as recently re-elected members Chris Hilbert (3rd District) and Reva Trammell (8th District). Mayor-elect Stoney sat in on the summit, too, as did four incoming council representatives: Andreas Addison (1st District), Kim Gray (2nd District), Kristen Larson (4th district) and Michael Jones (9th District). Joining McClellan and Loupassi from the state side were Dels. Betsy Carr and Delores McQuinn as well as Sen. Glen Sturtevant.