“A Step In The Right Direction”: Aspects Of Virginia’s Compromise Budget Appear Promising, Others Fall Short

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, center, arrives to deliver his State of the Commonwealth address before a joint session of the Virginia General Assembly in the House chambers at the Capitol Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

By Amie Knowles

June 1, 2022

Parents and schools could benefit from certain aspects of the budget, if Gov. Glenn Youngkin signs the proposal into law

On June 1, Virginia’s lawmakers in the House of Delegates and Senate voted in favor of a compromise budget that will now head to Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s desk to be signed. The budget will provide welcomed closure to several groups — and of those, parents and schools will be among them. 

The House of Delegates voted 88-7 in favor of the compromise bill, while the Senate voted 32-4 in favor of it.

In April, Dogwood reported on parents speaking up and asking for priority in the state budget. At a virtual press conference held by the Tax Fairness for Virginia Coalition, the parents asked for three things: 

  • A refundable state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to help families who are on the tightest budgets
  • A one-time tax rebate targeted to parents so that families could make ends meet
  • Fully funding Virginia’s K-12 schools

In May, parents and caregivers continued to share their stories through the Tax Fairness for Virginia Coalition in a video series. Annie Henderson, who cares for four grandchildren, shared her story through the platform, calling Virginia’s current financial situation a “major concern.”

“What’s keeping me up at night is trying to secure a place to live that I can afford,” Henderson said. “Will I have enough money to put gas in my car to get to and from work?”

Ahead of the June 1 budget vote, Henderson expressed her concerns and spoke about the benefits that a budget that prioritized parents could have on her household. She said it could help put food on the table, pay rent, pay utilities, and put gas in the vehicle.

“It would really help me to be able to sleep at night,” Henderson said. “It would help me to maybe be more healthy and not stressed.” 

While the compromise budget didn’t hit every mark parents requested, some aspects came close, including a one-time payment of $250 for individuals and $500 for families. The Tax Fairness for Virginia Coalition called the budget “a step in the right direction.”

If signed, the budget would make the EITC partially refundable. That would help address economic inequality by providing financial relief to qualifying working families with low and moderate incomes, according to the coalition. 

Furthermore, the budget would safeguard state revenues by maintaining K-12 education funding without including the likes of a gas tax holiday previously proposed by Youngkin. 

The budget did, however, include something Youngkin has spoken in favor of: $100 million to go toward partnering colleges with K-12 systems to create lab schools. Originally, the governor proposed that the General Assembly allocate $150 million toward the initiative. 

On the subject of lab schools — in part of a larger email briefing about the compromise budget — the Fund Our Schools (FOS) coalition called instead for granting money toward evidence-based programs, rather than “unproven approaches.”

Another aspect for education included an increase in teacher pay, which former Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, included in his budget plan in December. The compromise budget featured a 10% raise for teachers and other staff, split evenly with 5% this year and another 5% the following school year. In addition, staff would receive a $1,000 one-time bonus, effective December 1, thanks to funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.

With the help of local fund matches, the 10% raise, when first proposed, stood a chance at putting Virginia teacher pay above the national average. However, recently released data from the Virginia Education Association (VEA) revealed that the raise still won’t meet or exceed the national average. 

There is also nearly $272 million worth of funds geared toward increasing support staff, nearly $42 million in additional funds for early childhood education and preschool programs, and $800 million allocated toward school construction, renovations, and other expenses with additional budget transfers also included. 

The budget also stands to impact the Virginia Standards of Quality (SOQ), but not as much as some groups hoped. For example, the At-Risk Add-On program will allocate approximately $145 million to provide increased support to students in school divisions with high poverty rates. However, the commonwealth’s English learner (EL) offerings will maintain the current ratio of 20 instructional positions for every 1,000 students.

“The state budget has a profound impact on the day-to-day lives of students. That’s why both the positive steps in this budget, like the increased funding for support staff and new school infrastructure, and its shortcomings, including lower funding to support English learners, are of such significance. These decisions matter,” the FOS wrote in an email summarizing the budget as proposed. “Moving forward, even as we commend the many important investments in this conference budget, we underscore that the work to fully fund our schools remains unfinished. The FOS coalition will continue to advocate for our students, educators, and schools to ensure they have the resources to thrive.”

The compromise budget received no amendments as it passed through both the House and Senate on June 1. The next stop for the budget will be on Youngkin’s desk.

  • Amie Knowles

    Amie is Dogwood's community editor. She has been in journalism for several years, winning multiple awards from the Virginia Press Association for news and features content. A lifelong Virginia resident, her work has appeared in the Martinsville Bulletin, Danville Register & Bee and NWNC Magazine.

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