A few highlights from last week’s news, in case your paper is buried in the snow!
According to a Washington Post article, approximately 6,000 state-funded preschool slots in Virginia were not filled this year beucase localities did not invest the required matching funds to take full advantage of the program. Though data show $23 million earmarked for the Virginia Preschool Initiative went unclaimed, at a cost of $6,000 per student, some 60 districts said they were constrained by lack of resources and space and did not fill their programs. In Northern Virginia, Arlington was the only district to fill 100 percent of funded spots. Some advocates note that the state’s pricetag does not reflect the cost of a high-quality pre-K program, which would run closer to $9,300 per student. This discrepancy leaves communities scrambling to make up the difference. Virginia’s cost per pupil is in keeping with regional spending: $8,000 per student in Maryland and nearly $15,000 per student in the District, which covers all 3- and 4-year olds.
Also in the Post: 100 local school boards in Virginia, including the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, and Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties, are challenging a measure that allows for state takeover of struggling local schools. Resolutions filed by these board support a lawsuit currently fighting the General Assembly measure, which affects any school that fails the state’s accreditation or is accredited with a warning for three consecutive years.
Minimum Wage Across the Region
On the heels of D.C.’s minimum wage hike to $11.50 by 2016, Maryland Governor O’Malley has proposed raising the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016, up from $7.25 currently. D.C.’s increase was signed by Mayor Gray last week, and by 2017, the District and Maryland’s Montgomery & PG Counties will all have a minimum wage of $11.50.
The good news is that Maryland’s housing prices are on the rise. Prince George’s County, one of the region’s hardest hit during the foreclosure crisis, saw a 16 percent housing price increase last year – the second highest in the region. The bad news, according to a WAMU article, is that those rising prices are encouraging banks to foreclose more quickly on homeowners who are late on payments, causing a soar in foreclose rates as banks work through a backlog of foreclosures from the recession. PG County received $10 million in a national mortgage settlement, but very little goes to mortgage assistance, helping approximately 200 homeowners. While most struggling homeowners in PG County owe less than $10,000, many lost income in the recession and “even getting current on their mortgage may not make their home affordable.”
Local Giving & Our Region
The 2013 Combined Federal Campaign is over but reports from the Nonprofit Quarterly & the Federal Times indicate a “sharp decline” in this year’s giving. In the National Capital Region, the largest CFC campaign, pledges were approximately $47 million going into the CFC’s last day, down from nearly $62 million last year. The CFC peaked nationally at $283 million in 2009 and raised $258 million last year, but was hampered by government furloughs, the shutdown in October and coincided with a three-year freeze on federal pay scales. Some 2,000 local charities and 2,500 national charities participated in the 2013 CFC.
More than a third of of greater Washington zip codes are “super zips” according to the American Enterprise Institute. WAMU reports that these zips are mostly contiguous and rank in the top 5 percent nationally on scales of average income and number of adults with college degrees. That means households with an average income of $120,000+ and 7 out of 10 adults with a college degree. Check out the Post’s map of our region’s “superzips” here.