The Clarke County School Board opened its 2013 budget hearings on Monday night. Several citizens emphasized support of Clarke County Public Schools’ arts and athletic programs, but an appearance by a group of dedicated and gifted students may have made the strongest statement about the benefits of the County’s past and future commitment to the arts.
“The Governor has just released preliminary budget information today,” said Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy. “It appears that there is a lot of money in the education budget, but unfortunately it’s for things that Clarke County doesn’t need or may not be eligible for.”
Murphy said that although CCPS’s administrative staff had not yet had time to thoroughly review the Commonwealth’s latest education budget numbers, it appears that significant allocations will go to categories like charter schools, virtual schools and to students in schools at risk of failure.
“We don’t really know how the budget will wash out yet,” Murphy told the School Board. “However, higher education is getting the lion’s share of the funding.”
Murphy also said that despite Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s plan for a three percent wage increase for state employees, public education employees will not be covered by the raise.
However, there was some room for optimism in the school division’s economic future.
School Board member Robina Bouffault (White Post) pointed out that one bright spot in the educational funding outlook will come from a favorable adjustment in the way that the state calculates local ability to fund education.
“Clarke County will benefit because this year’s composite index has dropped in our favor,” Bouffault said.
Even though a reduced composite index will result in an increase in Commonwealth-contributed revenue for Clarke County, Joint Administrative Services director Tom Judge warned that adjustments to the Virginia Retirement System funding could result in a reduction of as much as $550K in lost state funding to Clarke schools.
“The revenue side may increase but it looks like the expenditure side of the budget may take a hit because of increases in the VRS rates,” Judge said.
Several citizens addressed the School Board during the public comment period on the budget. All spoke of the importance for continued educational funding, especially for the arts and athletics.
Clarke County High School band president, Carolyn Kruza said that extracurricular programs, like music and the arts help to ensure that students receive a broad educational experience.
“I’d like to remind the School Board that we like to know that are children are well rounded,” Kruza said. “We want to make sure that we there is funding for our band, music, art, yearbook and all athletic divisions.”
Clarke County athletics supporter, Debbie Hardesty said, “The students who participate in band, the arts, and athletics have grade-point-averages that are unbelievable. Students who are involved in band or athletics stay busy and also learn the importance of teamwork.”
Clarke County resident Shan Wilkins encouraged continued support for programs like chamber choir. Wilkins said that her family has previously been involved with private schools prior to moving to Clarke County but has been favorably impressed by the quality of the area’s public school programs.
“We have a senior in the chamber choir here and our friends come from other states just to hear the choir,” Wilkins said. “And the CCHS band is phenomenal and the band parents are amazing! I hope that the School Board can squeeze a little bit more out of the budget just for them.”
In a demonstration of “your tax dollars at work” Dr. Ryan Keebaugh’s CCHS Chamber Choir serenaded the School Board and citizens with four musical selections.
View video of the CCHS Chamber Choir conducted by Dr. Ryan Keebaugh here: