First things first - I don’t think enough can be said regarding the heroism of our fallen colleagues at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown CT. They brought honor to our profession. I, for one, am not surprised by their devotion to the children. Those with like hearts serve all across America. I mourn for all who died in Newtown.
The Governor presented his budget amendments today.
Before we get into the details, let me say that we may argue that a 2% raise is far too little for teachers, many of whom have not seen a raise in years. VEA supports a 4% increase. We live in the 8th wealthiest state but our teacher salary lags 12.5% behind the national average. Questioning the amount of the raise is fair. But, I do not think we should criticize the Governor for the method he employs to give the raise. He provides the state share of the 2% raise, requiring localities to put up their share in a local match to access the state funding.
This approach has a long history. Governor Robb discovered that the state is prohibited by the Constitution of Virginia from mandating teacher salary increases. He sent the money, asking localities to give raises, and localities spent the funds on everything but teacher raises. Governor Baliles first employed the required local match to raise teacher salaries, and this approach worked. Using this approach, the locality must certify that they have given the desired raise to qualify for the state funds. VEA has encouraged this approach since the Baliles era. When the state supports teacher salary increases this is how it should be done.
Now to the details:
The Governor proposes diverting ½ cent of the 5 cents sales tax from the General Fund to transportation funding. The General Fund is used to fund core services, such as education, while transportation has traditionally been funded with non-General Fund revenue. The Governor said that this will amount to $500 million per year by 2018. Education now receives about 30% of General Fund revenue, so this would be a $150 million annual loss to our schools by 2018.
The Governor alluded to the fact that the last time the state provided funding for a teacher salary increase was the state share of 3% in 2007. He provides $58.7 million for the state share of a 2% salary increase in the 2014 for all SOQ funded instructional positions. He provides $15 million of competitive incentive grants for Strategic Compensation (This is not merit pay.).
$277,000 is provided to fund expand utilization of the effective schoolwide discipline system.
The Governor provides $708,000 for STEM recruitment incentive grants. Qualifying teachers would get $5000 the first year and $1,000 in each successive year.
He provides $220,000 for a Governor’s Center for Excellence in teaching, residential summer professional development academies for exemplary teachers.
$4.9 million is provided to fund staffing standards for the blind and visually impaired.
$1.14 million is provided for a Reading Specialist in each elementary school scoring below 75% on the 3rd grade reading SOL reading test.
$210,000 is provided for a summer program on entrepreneurship for middle school students
The Governor cut $12,157,638 in funding for cost of competing adjustments for support positions in Northern Virginia.
$178,806 in additional funds is provided to support implementation of the Tuition Tax Credit/Voucher program which passed in the last session.
There is a change for the future funding methodology for school nurses. This does not look like a good thing, but I am going to have to dig to get the details.
That is a quick-and-dirty overview of the budget actions proposed by the Governor. I’ve tried to list what looks significant. Stay tuned, for as the late, great Senator Hunter Andrews used to say, “The Governor proposes, but the General Assembly disposes.”