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Will Virginia Fund or Underfund Our Schools?

Virgnia's General Assembly
Logo: At the Statehouse, Updates on the General Assembly Session

Budget Amendments are a Critical Part of the Legislative Process

Things are certainly heating up in the General Assembly! Not only are both chambers busy hearing the bills that crossed over from the other chamber, but the money committees (House Appropriations and Senate Finance and Appropriations Committees) have been preparing budget amendment packages in response to the Governor’s proposed budget. Here are the comprehensive budget amendment reports for the House (HB 29, HB 30) and Senate (SB 29, SB 30). 

Many of the amendments to the K-12 education budget items are in direct response to the Governor’s proposed cut of $300 million relative to last year’s K-12 education budget. The Governor’s cuts to the 2024-2026 budget seem tone-deaf in response to his “parent’s rights” mantra and the 2023 Joint Legislative and Audit Review Commission’s report that showed Virginia public schools are seriously underfunded and need between 66 to 93 percent more funding. A side by side comparison of the Governor’s, House and Senate budget versions are available at this link

The success and effectiveness of education bills passed this session depend to a large extent on whether funds are provided for implementation of those bills, so the state budget for K-12 public education is critically important. A number of organizations have expressed displeasure with the K-12 education portion of the Governor’s budget, including Fund Our Schools, Virginia Education Association, the Commonwealth Institute, and 4 Public Education

There is intense competition for limited funds and Virginia’s economic forecast has declined even further since the Governor released his budget. To make matters even worse, the temporary covid relief funds from the federal government soon will end, producing what some will call a “fiscal cliff” for public education in Virginia, which will be detrimental to students, teachers, and families. Communities will suffer, as they need to “make up” the expected budget shortfalls to ensure quality public schools.

Budget Amendment Process Explained

In the 2024 General Assembly, a number of the education bills proposed changes that will require increased funding to Virginia’s public schools, including bills that would change tax code and education policies. One bill that is still being considered by the Senate (as of Wednesday, February 21) would allow individual districts to vote on whether they wanted to increase sales taxes by 1%. Another bill would have created another upper tax bracket to increase revenue from Virginians with more than a million dollars in taxable income, but it was continued (i.e., delayed) to the 2025 session. 

By last Sunday, February 18th, the House Primary and Secondary Education and Senate Education Subcommittees produced budget reports that are those chamber’s proposed amendments to what is considered an unacceptable Governor’s budget. By next Sunday, February 25th, the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee will each use their chamber’s subcommittee reports to produce a budget bill from each of the chambers. Over the next few weeks, both chambers will consider and vote on their amended budget bills, then pass their approved bills to the other chamber for consideration as was done for the legislative bills during crossover. Usually the next step is for the bills to go to a joint Conference Committee and where a Conference Committee report will be returned to the House and Senate for another vote before going to the Governor as the joint budget bill for his decisions.

The Governor's Role in the Budget Process

Once the joint budget bill is approved, it will go to the Governor who will make one of four decisions:

  • Sign the budget bill,

  • Recommend amendments to the bill,

  • Veto certain line items in the bill, or

  • Veto the entire bill.

If Governor Youngkin does anything but sign the bill outright, his amended bill will go back to the General Assembly in a reconvened special session where disagreements will be resolved. Rinse and repeat. It should be noted that in 2023 the budget bill was not resolved until the fall of that year

How to Advocate for YOUR Public Schools

View and click on updated calls to action at this link


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