Senate Democrats' Budget Supports Education

RICHMOND – The Democratic-controlled Virginia Senate continued its long history of supporting education as a funding priority under its FY2012 budget.
The budget, reported Sunday by the Senate Finance Committee, calls for a $100millon increase to K-12 education and restores $16.6million in "hold harmless" funding to public school divisions across the state.  The Republican-controlled Virginia House of Delegates proposed cutting $50million in K-12 education funding in its version of the budget.
The Senate budget includes a $31million increase for employer and teacher retirement contributions. This is a 2.4 percent increase over the FY2011 budget.   
Senate Democratic leaders said funding K-12 education is an investment in the state's economic recovery.
"K-12 education is vital to the higher education pipeline and the economic future of the Commonwealth.  We felt strongly that reinvestments in school aid must occur in tandem with initiatives this year in higher education and economic development," said Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Colgan, D-Manassas.
Senate Democrats hope to regain some of the ground lost for elementary and secondary education during the last two legislative sessions.  A budget amendment to restore hold harmless funding to school divisions was recently submitted to the Senate Finance Committee by Sen. Henry Marsh, D-Richmond.
"It was important for us to keep the commitment we made last year to those school divisions adversely affected by changes in the local composite index. Without hold harmless funding, they may be faced with layoffs of instructional personnel, increased class size, and fewer course offerings and services.  As lawmakers, we must work with educators and parents alike to prepare our youth to compete in today’s global economy," said Marsh.
The Senate budget provides roughly $100million more to higher education than what was included in last year's budget. This budget allocation is $20 million more than the allocation in the Governor's budget.  
The Senate budget also provides an estimated $16.6 million to financial assistance programs for in-state undergraduate students.  The budget would allocate $14million for institutional allocations for undergraduate financial aid, $7million for low-income assistance and $7million for middle-income assistance. 

"We want to make direct progress toward improving the affordability of higher education for students and their families. A growing number of students from middle class families now face difficulties in paying for college because they don’t qualify for grants and tuition prices have increase significantly. We believe that education must be affordable and accessible to everyone," said Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton.
The Senate will consider the budget this week.

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