At the Schar School: Virginia Legislators Discuss Using Internet Taxes to Fund K-12 School Repairs, Updating

By Buzz McClain

From left, Spiros Protopsaltis, Anne Holton, Scott Surovell, Bill Stanley, Dave Marsden, Barbara Favola, Mark Keam

The state of Virginia’s K-12 public schools and the dire need to fund their updating and, in many cases, fix fundamental structural damage, was the topic of a two-hour special hearing of a Virginia Senate subcommittee Wednesday, September 5, at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University’s Arlington Campus.

Schar School Visiting Professor Anne Holton, former Virginia Secretary of Education, joined a panel discussion of four senators and a delegate from Virginia’s statehouse in Richmond, Va. The discussion was moderated by College of Education and Human Development faculty member Spiros Protopsaltis, director of Mason’s Center for Education Policy and Evaluation. Spiros and Holton are two of the Mason faculty members spearheading the new emphasis area in education policy as part of the Schar School’s Master of Public Policy program.

Panelists included State Senators Bill Stanley (Franklin County), Barbara Favola (Arlington), Dave Marsden (Fairfax County), and Scott Surovell (Fairfax County). Delegate Mark Keam, who represents central Fairfax County, was also on the panel. About 50 audience members, many of them elected officials or school board members, attended at Mason’s Founders Hall.

Much of the discussion centered around the urgency in some of Virginia’s 133 school districts to invest in local schools so they are educationally compliant with the Commonwealth’s Constitution and provide basic safety for students and others who use the buildings. Stanley said the best chance to open a sustainable, replenishing supply of what he called “free money” was to earmark funds for education infrastructure received by the state as sales taxes paid on retail purchases. The recent Supreme Court decision in the South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. case provides such an opportunity, he said.

Other points of discussion reinforced the transformative nature of the proposed legislation that would affect Virginians for generations to come. The Senate subcommittee hopes to finish its research this fall and present legislation in Richmond early next year.