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Neudorfer: Just using total per-pupil spending is unfair when looking at county’s commitment

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By John Barnhart

    District 2 Supervisor Chuck Neudorfer believes that focusing on total per-pupil spending by localities is unfair, when looking at the commitment of Bedford County to funding Bedford County Public Schools.
    That figure, which has Bedford County as next to last in per-pupil spending among the 132 school divisions in Virginia, has been used by school officials and members of the Bedford County Education Association to point to the need for more funding from the county. The ranking was also featured in an editorial in last week’s Bedford Bulletin.
    Neudorfer was referring to the figure from the Virginia Department of Education’s Superintendent’s Annual Report. The figure shows that Bedford County’s total per-pupil expenditure is the second lowest in Virginia. Neudorfer said that some school board members and other people use that one statistic without looking at the whole table.
    “From a fairness standpoint, to take that one statistic is unfair,” he said.
    Neudorfer points to another column, which lists the per-pupil expenditure in terms of the amount of local tax money spent per pupil. The table shows that there are 38 other localities that spend less per pupil, in terms of local money, than Bedford County. Among them are Campbell County, one of Bedford County’s neighbors. Bedford County spends $2,875 and Campbell spends $2,645. Pittsylvania County, another neighbor, spends $2,027.
    He pointed to other figures which show that there are a number of localities that get more from the state and federal government than Bedford County does. According to the table, only 48 localities get less from the state and 42 get less from the federal government.
    Neudorfer said that it’s not fair to use the total per-pupil expenditure figure, alone, to argue that  the county does not spend enough on public schools because there are a number of localities that contribute less locally raised tax money to their schools than Bedford County does.
    “It’s a little unfair to point out that we are next to last in the state when the county is giving more than 38 others,” he said.
    He also took exception to the Bulletin editorial which listed Virginia localities by total per-pupil expenditure in descending order and printed Bedford County in bold in a larger print size than the other localities.
    “That, to me, indicates, that it wasn’t there for a complimentary purpose,” Neudofer said.
    Neudorfer, however, doesn’t believe that the fact that 38 other localities contribute less in local funds says it all, either.
    “It is still debatable if that is enough,” he said.    
    “We still may want to argue about whether we do enough,” Neudorfer commented.    
    Other responses to the Bulletin editorial are listed in a commentary section of this week’s paper on page 7A.