K-12 Schools to See Big Spending Hike
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2005 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The precollegiate education spending figures do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
First-year Gov. Timothy M. Kaine presided over one of the worst legislative stalemates in Virginia’s history, as a session that would normally last 60 days dragged out three extra months while legislators bickered over transportation issues.
The contentiousness prompted concerns among some officials that the state government could shut down if lawmakers did not come to an agreement.
But by June 30, when the governor, a Democrat who was elected last November, signed the final budget bill, K-12 education came out a winner. Funding levels for education are at record highs, according to Mr. Kaine’s office. The two-year, $72 billion budget for fiscal years 2007 and 2008 sets aside approximately $11.5 billion for direct aid from the state to public education, or about 19 percent more than the previous two-year budget’s $9.7 billion.
Among the budget’s priorities is a 4 percent pay raise for teachers, which will be partially funded by individual school districts.
During the session, Gov. Kaine’s also began work on one of his major campaign issues: access to prekindergarten for all Virginia 4-year-olds. A 17-member commission will start examining the issue, including looking at other state programs, said Mr. Kaine’s press secretary, Kevin Hall.
A preschool initiative for disadvantaged 4-year-olds not served by Head Start received an increase in per-pupil funding from the Republican-controlled legislature, from $5,400 to $5,700. The program is financed by the state and local school districts.
Lawmakers also directed the state board of education to develop a teacher-evaluation process that ensures all Virginia’s teachers will be evaluated once every three years.
Vol. 25, Issue 43, Page 24