Friday, February 11, 2011

Senate, Hold Firm!!!

Yesterday, I addressed some aspects of the House budget. Today, let’s look at the Senate budget.

First, it provides $100.6 million more funding for public education than the Governor’s introduced budget. Remember, the House cuts $93.1 million.

The 97 school divisions harmed by the Governor’s cuts in the “LCI Hold Harmless” are made whole in the Senate budget.

It eliminates the 2% reduction in pay provision – remember, the Governor said school employees would pay the 5% VRS employee contribution if local school divisions provided a 3% increase. The Senate budget leaves things as they now are.

The Senate restores some Standards of Quality (SOQ) funding for school operating, construction costs, textbooks, ESL and remedial summer school.

The Senate chose not to give any salary increases. They said if we can’t do for all, we won’t do for any. The Governor had funds for state worker increases, but nothing for school employees.

The Senate puts $31 million into VRS teacher fund and raises the employer contribution rate by 2.4% to strengthen the fund.

The Senate cuts funding for the College Lab Schools from $0.6 million to $0.3 million, and cuts the funding for the Governor’s merit pay plan from $3 million to $1 million.

In keeping with a long and hard battle for VEA, the Senate provides $0.5 million for an “Analysis of Statewide Health Insurance.” As statewide plan could save the state, localities and VEA members a fortune in health insurance costs.

We can only hope that the Senate holds firm in their fight to increase funding for our schools now that the budget deliberations are underway.