Friday, January 2, 2015

Let's Do Right By Veterans and Students

To many, Delegate Lingamfelter’s HJ 536, a constitutional amendment allowing lottery funds to be used for “education and employment training for veterans,” may seem most commendable.   However, to fully understand the issue it raises, some background information should be considered.
First, what does Virginia’s Constitution now say about the use of lottery proceeds?  Article X, Section 7-A reads, in part, as follows:  “Lottery proceeds shall be appropriated from the Fund to the Commonwealth's counties, cities and towns, and the school divisions thereof, to be expended for the purposes of public education.”

What is very important to understand is that these proceeds are not funds above and beyond funds required by the various formulae utilized to determine state funding for our schools. The lottery funds are like any other revenue source, and they are used to fund educational essentials such as textbooks, SOL Algebra readiness programs, and Early Reading Intervention.
As we judge whether or not to reallocate lottery proceeds from public education to veterans programs, perhaps, we should consider how Virginia is doing for the next generation of school children.  Virginia currently ranks 41st out of the states in “Per Pupil Elementary and Secondary School Revenue from State Sources.”  School funding per pupil is down 16 percent compared to 2009, after adjusting for inflation.  Virginia has already substantially reduced her investment in the education of her next generation of children.  Students now in our schools are experiencing larger class sizes, reduced course offerings, elimination of needed support positions, and elimination of electives and extracurricular activities, and their teachers are being offered salaries which are inadequate to attract and retain high-quality personnel.

I am among those who support education and training for veterans, but I don’t think the best way to fund such programs is by further reducing Virginia’s investment in the education of her children.  I urge opposition to HJ 536, and urge Delegate Lingamfelter and his fellow legislators to find a better way to honor our commitment to our veterans.