McDonnell seeks more changes to two-year budget [Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.]
(Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jan. 15--Gov. Bob McDonnell wants to reassign grant funding to help certain high schools buy tablet computers for ninth-grade students.
Under his proposal, high schools that are not fully accredited in fiscal year 2014 could qualify to receive a $400 grant per ninth-grade student to buy a tablet computer and a $2,400 grant per school to buy content packages for teachers.
Eligible schools would continue to receive the grants for a maximum of four years, but they would be on the hook for choosing a set of electronic textbooks, applications and online services and to pay the recurring costs for textbooks and maintenance.
A 20 percent local match is required to draw funding from the program, which in its current form has helped schools gain the capability to administer Standards of Learning tests online.
The grant program currently has $3.2 million in funding, according to the McDonnell administration, and the tablet program is expected to cost about $3.1 million a year. There are 28 high schools in Virginia that are not fully accredited and potentially eligible for the proposed tablet program.
McDonnell outlined the proposal in a package of executive amendments to the current two-year budget that his administration submitted Friday.
In December, McDonnell proposed his revisions to the current budget, but this latest package addresses $53.5 million in new savings and resources. Of that amount, he wants to funnel $20 million into a contingency fund designed to cushion the state from the impact of any potential federal spending cuts. That deposit, he said, would boost the fund to $50 million in "hard cash."
After $11 million in proposed spending, the remainder would beef up the previous unappropriated balance to $32.7 million, a sum that McDonnell could tap for any school safety measures.
"A portion of this balance will act as a reserve from which we can fund anticipated recommendations of the newly created Task Force on School and Campus Safety," McDonnell wrote in a letter to the chairmen of the legislature's money committees outlining his latest amendments.
The school safety task force had its inaugural meeting Monday in Richmond. He expects its initial recommendations by Jan. 31 and said, "I will recommend that we draw on this unappropriated balance for whatever resources are necessary to fund specific recommendations before a new school year begins."
Of the $11 million in spending in 2014, McDonnell wants to devote $181,988 to a position in his new prisoner re-entry program, $400,000 to incorporate the State Corporation Commission into the state's business one-stop portal, and $2.5 million for a growth-accelerator program intended to foster the creation of cyber security firms.
The package also includes a series of amendments adding language to the budget, including one calling for a compensation study for state employees and a provision to tie to revenues the proposed state contribution to a pay raise for school instructional staff.
The change would make the raise consistent with the link to revenue targets on the scheduled 2 percent pay raise in 2014 for state workers. Virginia Education Association President Meg Gruber said Monday that she was not previously aware of the proposed link to revenues.
(c)2013 the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, Va.)
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