|The constitutional mandate for a "quality" education is defined in detail by the state Standards of Quality (SOQ). Long ago, local school boards realized that the SOQ were - and still are - insufficient to provide children with the education they need. For example, the basic SOQ for instructional staff yield classes far too large for the education most parents want for their children.
The SOQ state that kindergartens can have no more than 29 students in any one class. (Just imagine being the teacher of a kindergarten class that large.) Grades one through three are allowed to have as many as 30 students, and in grades four through six the limit is 35.
The state fudges the only other class size requirement in the SOQ, the one stating there can be no more than 24 students per class in high school English. That number is an average determined by taking the total number of students and dividing that by the number of teachers. Thus, one English class might have 15 or so students, while another might have 35 or 36. Either way, the school still would be meeting the SOQ.
For administrative and support personnel. the SOQ hedge the requirements by saying that those positions, for the most part, are contingent upon budgets and/or local school board decisions.
It's very easy to understand why localities have always added substantial funding to the SOQ in order to provide quality education in Virginia. The state has always been rather stingy in the way it funds public education. It probably would be more honest if the state constitution said, "an educational program of basic quality is established and continually maintained, unless a budget crunch necessitates something else."
The last time the Commonwealth faced such severe budget cuts was when Democrat Doug Wilder was governor. Wilder did everything he possibly could to retain sufficient funding for public education, believing that education was the key to future growth when the recession ended.
This time around, unfortunately we have in power in Richmond people who really don't value public education. Instead, they worship low - or nonexistent - taxes and the provision of basic services dependent on an ability to pay. The result is the budget that just passed and funding for state schools that is inadequate.