Just days before former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) is expected to make a decision on whether or not he will join the crowded Democratic field for a 2020 presidential run, he is continuing to trumpet his four-year tenure as the political leader of the Commonwealth that ended in January of last year. Though, he is doing so with some misleading claims.
During a speech earlier in the year at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, McAuliffe spouted off his accomplishments regarding education funding when he was governor from 2014 to 2018.
“When I left office, I want to say that I left the state in very good shape,” he said. Among his achievements, he stated that his administration oversaw “the largest investment ever in K-12 education,” which he began claiming midway through his governorship.
Politifact explains that the record for state aid to education was $6.4 billion, set during the 2008-2009 school year, but was broken by McAuliffe in 2016 with $6.5 billion, and in 2017 with $6.8 billion for K-12 education.
In raw dollars, money that has not been adjusted for inflation, McAuliffe’s budgets broke the Commonwealth’s record of funding at $5,248 per student – also set during the 2008-2009 school year. In his final budget, $5,444 was allocated per student.
However, the problem is with inflation, which McAuliffe fails to note.
Adjusted for inflation, the high mark for K-12 education funding came in the 2008-2009 school year when the Commonwealth spent an adjusted $7.5 billion on public education, exceeding the $6.8 billion in raw dollars in McAuliffe’s 2017-2018 budget. In adjusted dollars, McAuliffe’s peak education budget falls below the three state budgets that were in effect from July 2006 through June 2009, before the Great Recession.
For per-student spending, also adjusted for inflation, the record number was also spent in the three state budgets that were in effect from July 2006 through June 2009 when Virginia, in adjusted 2018 dollars, spent $5,675 to $5,966 per student during those school years. McAuliffe’s peak proposal of $5,444 per student during the 2017-2018 school year is less.
In strictly raw dollars, McAuliffe did sign budgets during his last two years that set state records for overall education spending and per-student outlays. However, that claim is misleading because there is no meaningful comparison based on the inflation of money.