Virginia Budget Leaves Over $400 Million for K-12

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has unveiled his $84.9 billion two-year budget for the 2013-2014 financial year, setting $438 million aside for public schools while providing a larger cushion for potential federal cuts, writes Olympia Meola at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

While wanting to provide $100 million a year for higher education, McDonnell’s announcement also includes an additional $2.2 billion on state employee and teacher pensions.

“This is a budget marked by tough decisions demanded by this difficult economy,” McDonnell said in an address to the legislature’s money committees.

“Virginia citizens and businesses live on budgets and make tough decisions every day.

“Richmond must continue to do so as well. It is critically important that we do. When we live within our means and make government work better, we create the conditions in which private sector job creation can flourish and the citizens of Virginia can innovate, achieve and find the opportunities for success they need and deserve.”

McDonnell will look to reduce funding for the Virginia Preschool Initiative by using different membership projections. But public education will still receive $438 million in net government funding over the duration of his plan, including more than $913,000 each year to pay testing fees for all 10th grade students who are obliged to take the preliminary SAT exam.

McDonnell would like to see the implementation of a percentage requirement for schools to report what percentage of their budget is spent on instruction.

The governor is looking to top up the Federal Action Contingency Trust Fund with $20 million – in addition to the $30 million in seed money already proposed to be allocated from the surplus – in view to help the state counteract impacts from federal budget cuts.

The legislature will tackle the governor’s budget during this upcoming General Assembly session, which starts Jan. 11, writes Meola.