Group Aims to find Solutions to Cville School Funding Woes

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The Blue Ribbon Commission is working to sort out the financial future of Charlottesville City Schools.  Over the last several years, the school system has lost a lot of money to state funding cuts and the city has had to step in to foot the bill, but the commission is trying to find solutions to those funding woes.

The commission is meeting for the second time Tuesday evening. The first meeting was a way for the members to meet and get data. This time around, members say it's time to dig in and find specific solutions to the funding problems.

With state funding for schools draining, Charlottesville schools came together with city leaders to appoint the members. The commission is made up of a number of people with a variety of skills from bankers and architects to educators, including University of Virginia professors.

Charlottesville Vice Mayor Kristin Szakos says the state cut Charlottesville school funding by a third in the last five years. She says, although council and the school board appointed the members, they will not attend the meetings. "That's not our role. We do not want to say, you know, 'go ahead and brainstorm but this is the right answer.'"

Elliot Weiss with UVA's Darden School of Business says the commission wants to see what has been successful at other schools. "Let's benchmark other school systems. For example, let's see what we can find that other people have done lets figure out what best practices are and let's get to work," he stated.

Szakos says the goal of the Blue Ribbon Commission is to be free to consider any funding options - without school board or council members in their ear. "Whether it's politically correct or not, whether it's easy or not, whether people on council right now, you know, are excited about it or not, we want them to have that freedom."

Weiss says it's important for students to have the most up-to-date tools in the classroom and those tools aren't always cheap. "With rapid change in technology at the schools there's continual needs for computers, tablets, funding for that."

The commission plans to meet every two weeks. Members hope to have a plan put together around the New Year.