The Put Kids First (PKF) rally on April 18th was most successful, and those who stood for education fired the first round in what promises to be a state budget battle of crucial importance to the future of public education in Virginia. Please check out an example of the news coverage: http://wtvr.com/2015/04/18/thousands-attend-put-kids-first-rally-in-richmond/ The VEA and PTA fired the first shot of the 2016 budget battle. We were the Minutemen! There are signs that the stars are aligning, as the revenues available to Governor McAuliffe as he crafts his budget are increasing. From Jim Regimbal of Fiscal Analytics: I believe we will have at least $2.5 bil. in additional GF revenue over the next 4 years to spend above the current 2014-16 biennium official revenue forecast. I think GF revenues will grow about 6.8% in FY 15, instead of the 4.7% contained in the budget. We must work to make sure public education is first in line as these new revenues are allocated.
Quote to note: More revenue is coming into the state than expected. That’s good news for our economy and the state’s ability to pay for our priorities, such as schools and health care. But Virginia’s lawmakers should be careful with this additional revenue, making sure it’s invested in the things we know grow our economy, rather than spent in the form of tax cuts and misguided giveaways. – Mitchel Cole of the Commonwealth Institute
As we follow up on the PKF Rally, what are the steps in this ensuing battle? In a thumbnail, they are as follows:
Local Earned Media Events (from now on until the budget is adopted) – we need to have PKF events stressing the need to reinvest in our schools in every locality of Virginia. Please be a part of making this happen. Your first chance is wearing red on May 5.
Budget Development – The Governor’s staff is now working on Governor McAuliffe’s first biennial budget. The budget development process will continue until the Governor presents his budget shortly before Christmas.
November Elections – We need to make funding our schools an issue in every race. Here is the question you should ask at every candidate forum: In Per Pupil Public Elementary and Secondary School Revenue from State Sources VA ranks 41st. State funding is 15% below what it was in 2009. Will you work to increase state funding for your schools? We need to elect 21 friends of public education in the Senate and 51 in the House. Fortunately we have friends in both parties.
December Budget Presentation – This is when Governor McAuliffe will have his opportunity to begin a significant reinvestment in our schools. We need to keep the pressure on and back him up.
Budget Hearings – These hearings, which occur shortly before the General Assembly Session begins, will give us our chance to support or suggest amendments to the Governor’s budget.
General Assembly 2016 – November’s elections will determine the dynamics of the session ahead. The Republicans will surely still hold the House, and the Senate is in play. The dynamics will vary depending on whether or not we have a divided legislature. Regardless, as the late great Senator Hunter Andrews used to say, “The Governor proposes and the General Assembly disposes.” As it has always been, we will have to fight for every public education penny we get out of the Virginia legislature.
Please make a personal pledge to be a part of the battle to gain needed support for our schools.