This morning, Governor McAuliffe addressed the joint money committees of Senate Finance, House Appropriations, and House Finance to unveil his biennial budget amendments. The governor’s August address spelled out a bleak financial picture and the need to significantly lower the revenue forecast for the 2015-2016 biennium. Since that time, the governor and legislature, along with state agencies, have made progress on closing the $2.4 billion budget shortfall. Today’s address unveiled additional spending cuts along with targeted investments in key areas including public education. We are pleased to see that Governor McAuliffe has protected K-12 education from additional cuts or program reductions. However, the budget process for the 2015 General Assembly session has just begun. There are still many tough decisions to be made and we must continue to advocate for our students and schools as the legislature convenes on January 14th.
You can read the governor’s full remarks here. Below are a few highlights from today’s announcement that we believe will be of interest to you and your division.
- No additional cuts or program reductions for elementary and secondary education.
- $75 million will be allocated from the Literary Fund to be used for school construction loans ($50 million) and interest rate subsidies on loans through the Virginia Public School Authority ($25 million).
- $150 million will be allocated from the Literary Fund to be used to reduce the unfunded liability of the teacher retirement fund.
- $572,976 for five additional positions at the Department of Education to strengthen the Department's support of academically struggling school divisions.
- $200,000 for expedited retakes of Standards of Learning assessments for students in grades three through eight.
- $732,000 of one-time funding to transition the grade seven and grade eight Standards of Learning mathematics tests to a computer adaptive testing (CAT) format. Currently, only the grade six mathematics assessment is available in a CAT format.
- $713,000 to establish a program of professional development to increase the capacity of principals in under-performing schools. The funding amount covers training for 40 principals at schools which have failed to meet accreditation standards.
- $537,297 for school divisions for innovative methods of serving breakfasts to unserved or underserved children.
- Budget language in the second year of the biennium that authorizes the transfer of allocated Preschool slots that have not been used by school divisions to other divisions that have fully utilized their state allocated slots. The additional slots will allow divisions with full participation to offer preschool programs to children on waiting lists.
- $500,000 for broadband planning grants to localities, pursuant to budget language change.