Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Education in Virginia

The public schools enroll 1,274,000 students: 52% White, 23% African American, 13% Latino, and 6% Asian, with 40% living in poverty, and 8% learning English. The State spends $10,960 per pupil. (Most recent NCES data)

“That free government rests, as does all progress, upon the broadest possible diffusion of knowledge, and that the Commonwealth should avail itself of those talents which nature has sown so liberally among its people by assuring the opportunity for their fullest development by an effective system of education throughout the Commonwealth.” Va. Const. art. I, § 15.

“The General Assembly shall provide for a system of free public elementary and secondary schools for all children of school age throughout the Commonwealth, and shall seek to ensure that an educational program of high quality is established and continually maintained.” Va. Const. art. VIII, § 1.

“Standards of quality for the several school divisions shall be determined and prescribed from time to time by the Board of Education, subject to revision only by the General Assembly. The General Assembly shall determine the manner in which funds are to be provided for the cost of maintaining an educational program meeting the prescribed standards of quality, and shall provide for the apportionment of the cost of such program between the Commonwealth and the local units of government comprising such school divisions. Each unit of local government shall provide its portion of such cost by local taxes or from other available funds.” Va. Const. art. VIII, § 2.

In 1994, in Scott v. Commonwealth, the Virginia Supreme Court declared education a fundamental right under the State constitution, but also held that the constitution does not require equal per-pupil funding or equal programs in school districts across the state. The Court concluded that “Section 2 addresses the two essential elements of quality education: standards and funding. By the terms of § 2, the General Assembly is empowered to make the final decision about both standards of quality and funding.