- Report Published -
|Funding the Standards of Quality Part 1: Assessing SOQ Costs|
|Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission|
|SJR 35 (1982)|
|The Standards of Quality establish the "foundation" program for public education. They do not, however, prescribe or limit the staffing, programs, expenditures, or other requirements which may be necessary or appropriate for the entire system of public instruction.|
In order for the General Assembly to carry out its constitutional responsibilities, it must have an accurate estimate of the cost to provide for the programs required by the standards. The assessment of SOQ costs for this study shows that the total costs are $5.16 billion for FY 1987 and FY 1988.
The estimate of SOQ costs is the minimum necessary to provide for the programs required by the standards. That is, the estimate reflects the cost of providing the "foundation" program only. Most school divisions provide educational programs beyond those required by the SOQ; expenditures for these activities are not included in the calculation of SOQ costs. Thus, the JLARC staff estimate should not be viewed as a recommendation on how much the General Assembly should appropriate for direct aid to public education.
Using the existing structure for the apportionment of costs between the State and the local governments, the State share of the total cost of $5.16 billion is $3.33 billion, and the local share is $1.83 billion. To achieve full funding of the State share as it is currently defined, an increase of at least $161.4 million in general fund appropriations is necessary in the 1986-88 biennium.
The SOQ cost estimates of the study were made within the constraints of the current framework for defining and funding the standards. The study dealt with existing standards, and did not address the question of what the standards "should" be. The study adopted the current legislative definition of SOQ costs as operating costs, and not capital outlay or debt service costs. In addition, the study did not deal with issues of equity or distribution. Unique circumstances such as higher cost of living were minimized in the calculation because the "foundation" costs represent a base. These issues will be systematically reviewed in the second phase of the study. The current requirement that a major portion of the funding for school divisions be based on a single "per pupil" amount was not modified.
The JLARC staff methodology for estimating SOQ costs involved two major parts. First, because quantified standards exist for instructional staffing requirements, the standards were applied to school enrollment data to calculate positions necessary in each school division. Second, in areas where quantified standards were not available, an approach was developed to identify the "prevailing costs" across school divisions for providing programs to meet the Standards of Quality.
JLARC staff used the school divisions to calculate SOQ costs because of the purpose and the existing framework for the standards. The Constitution, statutes, and Board of Education mandates are all clear on the point that while the Standards of Quality apply statewide, they are to be implemented by each of the 135 divisions operating schools in Virginia. For example, the Constitution states that "Standards of Quality for the several school divisions" shall be determined and prescribed. In all 12 of the areas covered by the Standards of Quality, the standards state that "each school division" shall meet certain requirements. The Code also states that the Board of Education shall have the authority to "seek school division compliance" with the standards.