McAuliffe unveils education budget, policies

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — New teachers in classrooms, changes for standardized tests, some grants to help expand prekindergarten and increased funding of teacher retirement contributions are some of the proposals unveiled Wednesday by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe during a visit to a Fairfax County middle school a day before he presents his full budget to lawmakers.

In Virginia, the governor presents a two-year budget proposal to the legislature in the middle of his term that can then be passed or amended. Republicans control both chambers of the General Assembly, and GOP leaders have withheld judgment on McAuliffe’s proposals until they find out how he intends to pay for them.

After announcing his plans for K-12 education before a handful of students and many local elected leaders at Mark Twain Middle School, McAuliffe said that the state’s “humming economy” is driving much of the revenue for the state’s first-ever $100 billion, two-year budget.

When WTOP pressed him on whether funding for his proposals would come from his plan to expand Medicaid in the state, which Republican leaders staunchly oppose, he responded “absolutely not.”

“Tomorrow I will unveil my full budget, but none of my education spending has anything to do with Medicaid expansion,” he added.

“If you look at the Medicaid expansion — you know there’s money in it for the hospitals, the net number is somewhere $100-something million. I’m unveiling a $100 billion budget, so I want everybody to keep this in perspective because they like to play the politics of Medicaid expansion: This is a very small, tiny amount of money on a $100 billion dollar budget that I’m proposing,” McAuliffe says.

Republicans say the existing Medicaid program has too much waste to expand it, and also argue that the federal government may not live up to its promise to pay for a large share of the expansion that would cover up to 400,000 additional lower-income Virginians.

McAuliffe says his education proposals will lead to a total $1 billion investment in education when combined with previously announced proposals to expand financial aid and make other changes to increase access to Virginia’s colleges, universities and technical schools.

His proposals include funding for the state’s share of 2,500 new teachers over the next two years distributed across Virginia and $41 million in funding to help areas with a higher cost of living like Northern Virginia to pay competitive teacher salaries.

The plan would also fund the transformation of the rest of Virginia’s standardized testing in math and reading for grades three through eight to a completely computerized system that can adapt as students correctly answer harder questions or incorrectly answer easier questions to provide more specific data on how students are doing.

The plan also includes a previously announced proposal to fund a 2 percent raise for teachers that would match state worker raises in the budget.

McAuliffe says his proposal funds 90 percent of required teacher retirement contributions in the first year, and 100 percent in the second year of the budget.

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