RICHMOND, February 23, 2006 â€“ Christopher K. Peace (R-Mechanicsville) joined the Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford), Vincent F. â€œVinceâ€ Callahan (R-Fairfax), Harvey B. Morgan (R-Gloucester), Robert Tata (R-Virginia Beach), John S. â€œJackâ€ Reid (R-Henrico), and other members of the House Majority Caucus â€“ on Tuesday, February 21, 2006 to highlight House Republican education initiatives for primary, secondary and higher education. The House budget, approved by the Appropriations Committee and to be voted on by the full House today, February 23, includes significant increases in funding for public education and Virginiaâ€™s outstanding colleges and universities.
â€œQuality education is essential to our strength as a Commonwealth. The very cornerstones of our future social and economic health rest with the minds and talents of the people. I recognize that funding for education and giving people an opportunity to develop will sustain our progress as a Commonwealth,â€ said Delegate Chris Peace. â€œI am proud to support our House plan for education. The proposed budget allows for record investments in this core service at the same time providing for additional support across the board in other core priorities like transportation, mental health, healthcare and public safety â€“ without raising taxes.â€
Speaker Bill Howell stated that â€œWe have supported substantial investments in K-12 education over the past decade coupled with high academic standards and accountability measures contained in the Standards of Learning (SOL) program put in place by Governor Allen in 1995. We also have been a catalyst for restructuring higher education to make our colleges and universities more efficient, more competitive, more accessible to Virginia students, and more accountable to tuition-paying parents and taxpayers. House Republicans are building upon this strong foundation for progress in the House budget for 2006-2008 â€“ providing almost $12.0 billion alone just for elementary and secondary education and $419 million in additional general fund support for our colleges and universities.â€
The almost $12.0 billion Republicans provided for in the House budget represents a total increase in K-through-12 spending of $1.6 billion over the next two years, or approximately 36 percent of the net new revenues available in the next biennium. Included in the funding are the costs of re-benchmarking the Standards of Quality, the funding of the stateâ€™s share of a 3-percent teacher pay raise, and the cost of an increase in the retired teacher health insurance credit.
â€œThis record financial investment, the largest single adjustment in our budget, underscores the dedication and commitment of House Republicans to enhancing Virginiaâ€™s educational system and ensuring that it continues as one of the national leaders in student achievement,â€ said Delegate John S. â€œJackâ€ Reid (R-Henrico), member of the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee of the House Appropriations Committee and Chairman of the House General Laws Committee. â€œThe budget we have prepared recognizes the importance of those who have an enormous impact on the quality of education and learning that children receive â€“ our teachers. That is why our budget includes almost $160.0 million dollars in salary increases for teachers and other SOQ-related positions. We also target $15.7 million to fund an increase in the teacher retiree health care credit rate from $2.50 per month up to $4.00, which provides a monthly supplement for retired teachers to help them address the high cost of health insurance.â€
For higher education, the House Republican budget will dedicate $419.0 million in additional general fund support, an increase of approximately 13 percent over base funding levels. A highlight of the House budget is its strong state support -- $137.0 million â€“ for our higher education research institutions, which are helping to make important breakthroughs in medicine, technology and economic development. The value of the $137.0 million is approximately $30.0 million more than the Governorâ€™s introduced budget and, unlike his budget, balances the funding between fiscal years to provide ongoing support to achieve research goals. In addition, Republicans provide through the House budget over $4.4 million in salary increases for college faculty to bring them to the four percent average increase for other state-supported employee groups.
â€œUnder the strong House budget, every institution is up to at least 90 percent of its calculated funding need â€“ plus we address anticipated enrollment growth and the need to help students and families afford their dreams of a college education,â€ said Delegate Morgan, Chairman of the Higher Education Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee and Chairman of the House Commerce and Labor Committee. â€œIn total, our budget reflects an additional biennial investment of $221.5 million for college and university operating costs alone. By focusing our resources toward enrollment growth and base operating needs, we continue to provide the incentive for colleges and universities to keep increases to tuition and required fees reasonable. We also direct nearly $22.0 million for undergraduate need-based student financial support. In addition, there is over $17.0 million for the Tuition Assistance Grant (TAG) program, which is $4.0 million more than the Governorâ€™s introduced budget. The additional funding will increase the annualized TAG award for undergraduate students attending private colleges and universities up to a maximum $3,100 by 2008. The House budget also provides $12.0 million for graduate student financial aid, which is about $2.0 million more than the introduced budget. Overall, House Republicans are giving college students, professors and researchers a solid boost.â€
Speaker Howell concluded with this observation: â€œJust to give you a little perspective about how strongly we are supporting education. When I first came to the General Assembly in 1988, the entire state budget was $12 billion a year. Now, weâ€™re spending that much every two years on K-12 education alone. The additional investment we are making with this budget reaffirms our commitment to providing Virginiaâ€™s children with the very best opportunities in education.â€