How a Va. Department of Education error may impact school systems’ ability to hire

Virginia’s second-largest school system may cut down on its hiring for certain positions in the aftermath of a Virginia Department of Education error that left school systems with less funding than anticipated in fiscal years 2023 and 2024.

At a board meeting Wednesday night, John Wallingford, chief financial officer at Prince William County Public Schools, said the mistake would cost the county $4.3 million in the current fiscal year, and $10.7 million in fiscal 2024.

As a result, Board Chairman Babur Lateef said, if the cuts stand, the county would likely cut hiring of special education teaching assistants and possibly instructional coaches. The only two things the county can cut, Lateef said, are salaries or new positions to be filled.

However, that may make it difficult to reach the school system’s goal of having 350 special education teaching assistants by 2025. Final decisions will be made in March, Lateef said.

“This loss of revenue could significantly impact our ability to meet that goal,” Prince William County Schools Superintendent LaTanya McDade said at Wednesday night’s meeting.

It marks the latest fallout from the state’s calculation mistake, which Wallingford said came because sales tax revenue for local school systems is run through a local composite index. The index is supposed to measure an area’s ability to fund its public schools.

A spokesman for the Department of Education told The Associated Press that “it was a human error on our part.”

“When VDOE shared those numbers with us originally, what they did not do is they did not run those numbers through the local composite index, effectively overstating those revenues,” Wallingford said.

In a letter this week to state Sens. Janet Howell and George Barker, and Del. Barry Knight, obtained by WTOP, Youngkin said the situation is “frustrating for us all and even more so that it came to light after I submitted my proposed budget.”

“I am requesting that as you finalize your budget amendments this week that you include the necessary resources to address this error,” Youngkin wrote in the letter dated Feb. 1.

It’s unclear whether Youngkin or state lawmakers will provide additional funding to school systems to account for the error. Scott Brabrand, executive director of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, said in an email that he expects the situation to be resolved.

“Superintendents across the Commonwealth are very concerned about this funding error,” Brabrand said in a statement. “We are urgently asking State Superintendent Balow and the State Board of Education to work with the General Assembly and the Governor to correct this error’s impact on our students and schools. Proactive solutions must be found. VASS will work closely with state leaders to fully rectify this situation.”

In Fairfax County, school system officials said the direct impact of the state mistake is unclear, but it would result in a $12.7 million reduction in the county’s proposed fiscal 2024 budget.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow WTOP on Twitter and Instagram to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2023 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up