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Big Divide In House, Senate Budgets On Teacher Raise, Counselor Ratio Funding

Copy of House Appropriations, Chairman Chris Jones
(photo credit Craig Carper)

Amid controversy surrounding Virginia’s Governor and Lieutenant Governor, lawmakers continue to put their heads down and work towards a budget deal. But there remain big rifts between the House and Senate budgets, especially when it comes to education spending. Three of the five percent teacher pay raise was approved last year. Under the Senate budget plan, the remaining two percent of the increase kicks in this July. Under the House plan, it wouldn’t kick in until next January. “A five percent increase but for half of one of the years of the budget,” said Chris Duncombe, with the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis. The six-month delay the House proposed would save Virginia about $40 million. The House budget does include $36 million to start to bring down the counselor-to-student ratio. The Senate version only includes $10 million for that. But Duncombe says there are other concerns about the House and Senate budgets related to education spending. The Senate plan removes investments in the lottery per pupil and the at-risk add-on buckets that Northam’s budget proposal included. The House plan includes additional funding for the lottery per pupil allocation but not for the at-risk add-on. The lottery per pupil amount is allocated to localities based on their local composite index, while the at-risk add-on is distributed based on the concentration of poverty in school divisions. “That program [at-risk add-on] is more targeted to high-poverty schools,” Duncombe said. Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras issued a joint statement about the House and Senate budget proposals Monday. “In Richmond, our state funding needs are even more acute with our state distribution down 19% since the 2009 recession. This inequity must be addressed to give our city the tools it needs to fully fund and improve our schools,” the statement said. “Yet the legislature is ignoring the critical at-risk add-on program and has cut its proposed increases that would help direct funding to our Commonwealth’s students who need it the most.”

Megan Pauly reports on early childhood and higher education news in Virginia
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