Before Governor McDonnell leaves office, he's hoping to leave a parting gift with school districts across the commonwealth. Tuesday he announced that his 2015-2016 budget will include a $582.6 million increase for K through 12 education.
But one school division is cautiously optimistic. Albemarle County schools have been through their own share of financial issues over the last five years because of inadequate funding. On one hand they're happy because any extra support will help, but this doesn't make up for the loss the school system has already suffered.
Because of funding cuts since 2008, Albemarle has received about $35 million less than what it would have received if the state had level-funded schools over those years. County school leaders say moving forward, they expect things to be tight.
"Even with this money we could still be looking at presenting a budget that's several million dollars in debt trying to make ends meet,” said Albemarle’s Assistant Superintendent Billy Haun. “There may still have to be cuts. We have a community, we have a school board, and the school system that have very high expectations and you have to be able to fund those expectations."
Albemarle County will start hashing out the budget in January, beginning with a funding request from the superintendent. But schools say there are a lot of factors up in the air.
McDonnell’s budget is just a proposal, and the General Assembly may add mandates that need to be funded. Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe may also make changes. On top of that, the money has to be shared between roughly 133 school divisions.
Office of Governor Bob McDonnell Press Release
RICHMOND - Building on his commitment to ensure that every child in Virginia, regardless of their zip code, has access to a top quality education, Governor Bob McDonnell today announced that his FY 2015/2016 budget will include $582.6 million in increased funding for the biennium for K-12 and pre-kindergarten education. Funding is increased by $268.8 million in FY2015 and $313.8 million in FY2016. This funding includes $38.0 million in anticipated additional Lottery profits each year, for a total of $76.0 million for the biennium.
Speaking about the new funding for K-12 education, Governor McDonnell said, "It has been said that providing high quality schools for all children, and thus greater access to the American Dream, is the civil rights issue of our time. We have made great strides over the last four years to ensure that all students are able to get a world class education. This started with increasing educational opportunities through college lab schools, charter schools and virtual schools. We then focused on raising standards for schools and teachers, reducing mandates on local school divisions, enhancing teacher quality, and worked to end social promotion by providing reading intervention for students in third grade. This year, we established the Opportunity Educational Institution to focus on turning around chronically failing schools in Virginia. We implemented A-F school report cards so parents can better understand how their child's school is doing. We provided the first pay raise in five years and strategic compensation for teachers, authorized Teach For America in the Commonwealth and reduced red tape for school divisions. Additionally, over the last four years we have directed more money into the classroom, where instruction occurs. We are seeing the results of our reforms. Nearly nine out of 10 ninth graders who entered high school in the fall of 2009 earned a diploma within four years, a 7.8 percent increase since 2008. The statewide dropout rate fell to 5.9 percent for the class of 2013, compared with 6.5 percent for the class of 2012. And, reading skills for Virginia's fourth graders have greatly improved, with 43 percent of fourth graders reading meeting or exceeding the National Center for Education Statistics proficiency standard – almost 10 percent more than the national average."
Governor McDonnell continued, "My FY 2015/2016 budget continues our commitment to education reform. Until every child has access to the high-quality education they deserve, our work is not finished. That is why I am proposing $582.6 million in new funding over the next biennium for K-12 education. This amount with targeting toward instruction operations moves Virginia from 61 percent to 64 percent of all education dollars going to the classroom over the past four years – just shy of the goal of 65 percent. The new money includes $20 million to bolster and protect the Literary Fund for school construction loans so that our schools are equipped with the tools our children need to succeed. Recognizing that math and reading are critical building blocks to success down the road, we will also invest over $4 million to help schools not meeting accreditation requirements by providing additional math and reading specialists and other professional support. Finally, we will provide more than $500 million over the next biennium to local school divisions. This funding provides support for the costs associated with rebenchmarking the Standards of Quality, accounting for the growth in student enrollment and increased teacher retirement costs."
Specific programs and initiatives supported by this funding include:
K-12 Accomplishments During McDonnell Administration
The governor commends House Majority Leader Kirk Cox and former Secretary of Education Jim Dyke and many other legislators and constituent groups for their leadership and hard work in improving public education in Virginia.