The General Assembly reconvenes in Richmond on April 12th to address unfinished legislative business. There are three major items on the session’s agenda: the state budget, bills the Governor vetoed, and remaining appointments made by the Governor since the General Assembly session ended in February. Below is an explanation of what to expect related to K-12 education for this April session of the General Assembly.
Virginia has a two-year budget cycle; thus, in even years the Governor proposes a two-year budget bill, which is introduced to the General Assembly, and is adopted that first year after amendments from the House and Senate. The biennial budget is open to additional amendments in the odd-numbered years that follow. Usually, the budget is approved by the General Assembly in April, after differences between chamber versions of the bills are resolved in conference; however, this year, the budget is unlikely to be resolved until June, because the House and Senate have not resolved the differences in their budget versions.
The two-year budget cycle means that the 2022 budget will remain in place through June 30, 2024 unless an agreement is reached between the chambers and the Governor to accept proposed amendments, and change appropriations for the second budget year. As a result, legislators feel little urgency to find compromise between the House and Senate versions; however, local school boards and county or city councils may feel some anxiety or pressure, because the lack of firm numbers leaves them without clear numbers for the local budget cycle.
Versions of this year’s budget contain substantive differences regarding K-12 issues. The Governor continues to insist that significant funds be allocated to Lab Schools with any current budget surplus used for tax relief, mostly to upper income and corporate tax-payers. These recommendations continue to be a sticking point as the Senate version demands that funds proposed for lab schools go to support the needs of existing public schools and includes no tax relief for upper income and corporate taxpayers.
To a large extent Virginians agree with the Senate: a recent poll of Virginians showed that their priorities are mental health services, increased funding for schools, and tax cuts for small businesses and individuals, not corporations. This is radically different from the massive tax cuts proposed by the Governor.
This year Youngkin vetoed only three bills, none of which pertained to K-12 education. Only two of the education bills 4 Public Education supported, in highly amended forms, reached the Governor’s desk. He signed both:
The bill to improve mental health resources in schools had been amended in conference committee so that school resources cannot be provided for mental health unless and until the bill passes again in the 2024 Session of the General Assembly.
The bill on teacher compensation sought to increase teacher pay to at least the national average, but was amended so that teacher pay will languish another year due to amendments demanded by the House of Delegates.
Appointments Requiring Confirmation
Two major appointments require confirmation by the General Assembly during the April 12 session. One is Lisa Coons, who comes from her former post as Tennessee’s Chief Academic Officer to be the new Superintendent of Instruction. She will replace Jillian Balow who resigned effective March 9, 2023 will continue to receive in a settlement payments equal to one year of salary (totaling $266,213). The second appointment to the Virginia Board of Education is Dale L. Sturdifen of Clarksville, former chair of the Mecklenburg County School Board and former staff of Congressman Bob Good, who was appointed to the seat vacated after Governor Youngkin’s previous appointment to the seat was not confirmed by the Senate. The seat had become vacant a year earlier when three Northam appointees were not confirmed early in Governor Youngkin’s term.
In addition to the General Assembly reconvening on April 12, there are two other important meetings scheduled in Richmond over the next two weeks: