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2512 George Mason Drive • P.O. Box 6038 Virginia Beach, Virginia 23456-0038   757.263.1000 • 757.263.1240 TDD

The Lowdown on Your School Dollars
FY 2012-2013
Updated 2/29/12

Answers to Questions About the School System's Funding Reductions

In response to Superintendent James G. Merrill's February 7 presentation to the School Board on the proposed operating budget for FY 2012-2013, the following questions and answers were developed. Since there is no conceivable way to anticipate every question that will arise about the Superintendent's Estimate of Needs (SEON), as new questions arise, these will be added along with answers.

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Key Points to Remember About the Superintendent's Estimate of Needs (SEON) FY 2012-13

  • The shortfall that Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) is facing for the 2012-13 fiscal year approaches $40 million. Actually, it would have been even worse --$50.3 million—if we hadn't been able to move $11 million in one-time savings from our reserve funds into the operating budget.
  • With a shortfall this large, there was no way deep cuts could be avoided.
  • The reason why it is worse this year than the last couple of years is because our aggressive savings and efficiency program allowed the school district to put aside money to buy down previous shortfalls. The school division no longer has the savings to shield employees and students from cuts. The reason we don't have the savings is because last fiscal year the City of Virginia Beach took $23.7 million from our reserve accounts to fund city projects and to provide permanent, ongoing raises for city employees. That action effectively destroyed our shield against this budget crisis. When you add up what the city has taken from the schools' reserve funds and year-end funds in 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12, the total is $41.4 million.
  • State funding has also decreased dramatically. From 2008-09 to 2011-12, state funding for VBCPS has dropped $56.8 million. When you add the loss in city funding over that same time frame ($29.3 million) to that of the state, the total loss for VBCPS is $86.1 million.

If you have a question about how the City of Virginia Beach allocates funding to Virginia Beach City Public Schools, please contact the Virginia Beach City Council individually or contact all Council members at ctycncl@vbgov.com.

Questions and Answers

Q: What can I do to change this terrible funding situation for VBCPS?

A: This situation isn't going to improve without additional funding. Your support in expressing your concern to the mayor and City Council may be helpful. Please know, however, that the likely response from the city will be to send you back to the school system, noting that the School Board is in charge of the schools' operating budget. If that occurs, you may want to point out that you acknowledge that the School Board is indeed in charge of its budgetary choices, but that doesn't discount the need for increased school funding. You may want to consider advising the city staff member you are talking to that you want the opportunity to register your opinion on that subject with City Council members because it is Council that makes the decision about the level of school funding.

In addition, you should also consider calling or e-mailing your elected state representatives because state funding has also been decreasing, from $5,724 in 2009 to $4,230 today. The Lowdown on Your School Dollars page includes email addresses for City Council members and for our state legislators.

Q: Why can't the school system cut administrative functions and non-instructional positions and programs in order to save teacher jobs and programs for children?

A: While I understand your concern, eradication of the entire school administration complex would only save $12 million a year and again, the shortfall approaches $40 million. But such action would also mean there would be nobody to write paychecks, to pay bills, to hire staff, to supervise testing, to develop curriculum, to provide training, etc. — all necessary functions. In addition, we cannot take the total reduction from non-teaching positions as the district still needs custodians, bus drivers, food service workers, principals, etc.

Q: But why did you make choices like cutting middle school interscholastic and junior varsity sports and bus transportation for academies and the gifted schools?

A: The school district must concentrate the majority of its resources on instruction in the core areas of reading/language arts, mathematics, social studies and science. While it is distasteful in the extreme for us to take the opportunity for participation in sports away from our students, middle school interscholastic sports and junior varsity sports are discretionary programs. Cutting transportation for the academy and gifted programs does allow us to recoup a major supporting expense, but still keep the programs open.

Q: You are effectively cutting salaries with this budget when you require employees to take three days off without pay. How can you do this? And how will this work? Updated 2/13/12

A: Salary and benefit expenses constitute 85 percent of our operating budget; there was no way to avoid having to cut in those areas. Cutting employees’ work calendar by three days saves the district more than $7 million. To ensure a consistent “furlough effect” for all VBCPS employees, the following method will be used:

  • All employees will have the same three instructional days removed from the work calendar; tentatively scheduled for November 21, December 6, and March 20. These days were originally early dismissal days for students, now schools will be closed.
  • Annual salaries will be reduced by the hourly equivalent of three days.
  • The salary reduction will be equally distributed across all pay periods.

Q: As a middle school teacher not only will I be furloughed but I am losing my second planning period. Why is this necessary?

A: We are aware this is a difficult time to be an educator and school system leadership regrets having to implement such drastic strategies. However, when you have to whittle away at a $40 million shortfall, there is a need to find large expenses that can be eliminated or trimmed. Eliminating the second planning period saves the division $4.4 million.

Q: I am in one of those positions that the budget eliminates (16 custodians and 18 security assistants). When will I know if I am going to lose my job?

A: First, we are hopeful that the eliminations will be absorbed by attrition (those retiring or leaving the division) and there won't have to be cuts. However, should there be a need to cut jobs that are currently filled, a detailed implementation plan will be developed and all affected employees will be communicated with directly. It will most likely be spring before we can ascertain if that is going to be necessary.

Q: Are teachers other than those who received letters – the P1s, P2s and P3s – at risk of losing their jobs?

A: As we advised the probationary teachers in a recent letter, we are hopeful that attrition will be such that we won't have to resort to layoffs. The budget proposal does contain a retirement incentive so we believe that will help. If we should find that layoffs of teachers is going to be necessary, it is likely that most, if not all, of the reductions will be in the P1, P2, and P3 categories of teachers. However, we can't discount need of students and schools here either. Some of our probationary teachers are in hard-to-recruit areas or certified in subjects where the depth of teachers isn't as great. In those cases, we would probably have to retain those teachers. That could mean some continuing contract teachers would be adversely affected.

Q: How will the cost-savings measure of changing the high school schedule format from an A/B schedule to a 4X4 format impact students and staff? Updated 2/17/12

A: The recommendation to change the current A/B schedule to a 4X4 format, if approved, could save the school division $8.2 million by reducing 150 high school teaching positions. With the implementation of a 4x4 schedule, the impact on students and teachers follows:

  • Teacher Impact
  • Currently, high school teachers teach five courses. With a 4x4 format, teachers would teach one additional course. This would decrease the number of teachers at the high school level by 100.
  • The 4x4 format allows students to take two more classes each year. This will result in increased enrollment in elective classes and classes at the Technical & Career Education Center and the Advanced Technology Center that are typically under student capacity. By running all classes at capacity, this would decrease the number of teachers at the high school level by 10.
  • The additional positions/supplements that were added to accommodate students taking more than six classes would be eliminated. This would decrease the number of teachers at the high school level by 40.
  • With a 4x4 format, teachers will teach three blocks with a 30 minute lunch and one planning session each day.
  • Teacher planning time would increase from 80 minutes to 91 minutes each day.
  • Decreases the number of students teachers instruct each semester.
  • Decreases the number of individual course sections for which to prepare on a daily basis.
  • Decreases the number of report cards and progress reports a teacher must prepare in a given semester.
  • Student Impact
  • Allows students more flexibility.
  • Provides a daily lunch period for all students.
  • Students can take four classes each day or up to eight classes over the course of the school year.
  • Allows students to take more elective courses.
  • Allows students to take more credits to earn an advanced studies diploma.
  • Students have the opportunity to retake courses, eliminating the need to attend summer school.
  • Students can begin taking electives classes in grade 9, rather than waiting until their junior year.
  • With new graduation requirements implemented, the current schedule doesn't allow advanced studies diploma students to earn the required 26 credits for graduation, essentially forcing them to take seven or eight classes at one time to earn the required credits.
  • Students working on advanced studies diploma do not have room in their schedules for lunch.
  • The current schedule does not allow music students to continue music in high school if they plan to pursue the advanced studies diploma and other interests.
  • The A/B schedule does not allow students the same college opportunities as other local students who are on a 4x4 because they can't take as many classes, to include AP classes, which impacts their GPA and makes them less competitive. It also does not provide opportunities for students attending the Advanced Technology Center (ATC) and Technical and Career Education Center (TCE).
  • On the A/B schedule students generally take six classes and are required to pass five classes to participate in athletics. A hybrid 4X4 generally means that students are taking four courses at each semester and thus would have to pass 3 courses to be eligible to participate in athletics.

Should the 4x4 format be implemented as a cost-savings measure, the instructional day would increase by 14 minutes. The instructional day would change from 7:25 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. to 7:17 a.m. – 2:06 p.m. The earlier start time and later dismissal time, will not impact transportation at the middle or high school levels.

During the February 14, special School Board workshop, staff presented an overview of the 4x4 format to the Board. That presentation is available for review.

Q: When does the School Board vote on this and how I can I express my opinion on the proposed cuts and/or the need to seek additional funding?

A: In the coming weeks the School Board will deliberate on the Superintendent's Estimate of Needs (SEON), ultimately voting on March 6. The Board can accept the superintendent's recommendations; choose to alter or replace some of the recommended budget strategies; or submit a budget to City Council that asks for increased funding. City Council will deliberate on the school system budget in March and April, ultimately voting in mid-May.

Q: I've heard City Council members say that they "gave the School Board every penny it requested" in years past. If that is the case why are the schools facing crisis now? Updated 2/21/12

In 1997 City Council adopted a city-schools revenue sharing formula (RSF) which allocated a percentage of seven revenue streams to the schools. Each year, the School Board submitted to Council a balanced budget which complied with that revenue-sharing formula and did not exceed the identified, allocated funds. However, to do so, the Board had to make some very painful decisions such as closing a school, ending year-round programs, cutting positions, and delaying much-deserved raises for staff. So, while Council may have provided the funding required by the revenue-sharing formula, it did not provide funding to avoid drastic cuts. In addition, Council has taken approximately $41.4 million dollars from school reserves over the last three years to pay for city projects.

This year, City Council has decided to eradicate the RSF and instead provided a lower "target" funding figure to the school division. Without the RSF, the School Board has the option to submit a budget request based on the dire needs of the school division, regardless of whether it exceeds the City's "target" number. If that happens, it will be up to City Council to determine whether a tax increase is needed to fully-fund the schools. In Virginia, school boards do not have taxing authority.

Q: Last year, the vice mayor wrote a letter to City Council saying the schools were overfunded, but the schools are facing a huge shortfall. How can that be? Updated 2/21/12

A: There is a difference between being overfunded and fiscally responsible. The vice mayor took issue with the amount of money we had set aside for future expenditures for things like textbooks, cafeteria services, instructional technology, school equipment, athletics, health insurance, and risk management. To be clear, that money was only available because of deep cuts made by the school board and a self-imposed savings and efficiencies program. Simply put, we knew the economy was going to get worse and planned ahead. Our goal was to save enough money to better position the school district to make future expenditures that would maintain the quality of VBCPS. Unfortunately, that fiscal responsibility was undermined when City Council took $23.8 million of our savings; claiming our schools were "overfunded."

Q: Why did the school system spend money in areas like technology and buildings when people are in danger of being laid off? Updated 2/21/12

A: Today's students are digital natives. Now more than ever, technology is an important and highly-effective instructional tool in the classroom. Computers, whiteboards, even iPods engage students and provide them with instant access to information and resources from around the world. The use of cutting edge technology is essential if teachers are to prepare their students to effectively compete in a global environment.

In addition, research has shown that there is a direct cause and effect between the learning environment of a school building and student success. Therefore, VBCPS has always been committed to a thoughtful, well-planned capital improvement program (CIP). All projects are developed in accordance with the school division's Comprehensive Long Range Facility Master Plan, which was developed in 2007 with significant community input. Unfortunately, the CIP has been gutted in recent years. In fact, over the next decade only three schools are slated for modernization/replacement. All construction projects are designed to support strategies for sustainability and energy efficiency which result in on-going savings in utility costs.

Q: How will eliminating the second planning period for middle school teachers save the school division $4.4 million? Updated 2/22/12

A: Currently, middle school core teachers have four teaching periods and two planning periods. One period is used for individual planning and the other for team planning. The savings will be realized by the school division through the elimination of one planning period. With this change, the middle school schedule will shift to a seven-period day. As a result, the number of teaching periods for all core teachers will increase from four to five. Should this recommendation be implemented, 81 positions will be eliminated, with a savings of $4.4 million.

  • Teacher Impact
  • Core teachers will teach five periods and have one planning period per day.
  • Scheduling of planning periods will be challenging.
  • Scheduling of Professional Learning Communities (PLC) may be difficult.
  • Job-embedded professional development will be hard to manage and schedule.
  • Gifted Resource Teachers (GRT) who meet with Gifted Cluster Teachers for training will have to adjust to the time frame.
  • Core team collaboration will be difficult to schedule.
  • Parent conferences with core team teachers will be difficult to schedule.
  • Student Impact
  • No academic support will be provided during the school day. All academic support will take place before or after school.
  • Required SOL remediation, currently scheduled during the day, will take place before or after school.
  • Middle school students will have a seven period day instead of the current six period day with a 30 minute lunch included.
  • Elective courses will accommodate students from all grade levels.

During the February 14, special School Board workshop, staff presented an overview of the 4x4 format to the Board. That presentation is available for review.

Q: Is the school division still using funds from the Virginia Lottery? Updated 2/24/12

A: The answer to this question is "yes". Although, the funding amount from the Virginia Lottery has decreased dramatically over the past three years.

Starting in 1998, the state allocated proceeds from the Virginia Lottery to be used to fund school construction for all school divisions. For almost ten consecutive years, Virginia Beach City Public Schools received about $10 million in lottery funding annually from the Commonwealth to support a variety of capital construction projects to include renovations, additions, and new construction for elementary, middle, and high schools.

Virginia Beach City Public Schools no longer has access to funds generated from the Virginia Lottery for construction of school construction projects. This practice was discontinued starting with the 2009-2010 FY budget when lottery proceeds were moved back into Commonwealth of Virginia’s general fund account.

However, we do continue to receive approximately $20 million a year for the school division’s operating budget targeted specifically for Standards of Quality programs and programs for students at-risk. It's important to note that state funding is reduced by the amount of lottery funding allocated to schools. In other words, it's not "extra" money.

Last Modified on Monday, January 30, 2017