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Medicaid Isn't the Only Funding Debate Left in Richmond

AP Photo / Steve Helber

Lawmakers are back in Richmond this week, still trying to hammer out a deal to finalize the budget. Although most of the attention has been focused on expanding health insurance to poor people, that’s not the only funding debate still playing out.

A recent report from the Education Law Center and Rutgers University gave Virginia a failing grade for how school funding is distributed. That’s because state and local spending on education in Virginia is 11 percent lower in areas with the most poverty. That disparity motivated a bipartisan effort to invest more money to school divisions with poor students this year. Republican Delegate Israel O’Quinn of Bristol worked with Democratic Delegate Laschrecse Aird of Petersburg on the effort.

“The two of us had similar issues with lots of school districts that had high at-risk populations.”

O’Quinn and Aird wanted $64 million in new funding for high-poverty school districts to help with things like teacher recruitment and retention. The Senate included a much more moderate $7 million for that. But the House didn’t have any new money for the program, instead moving $64 million that was supplanted from lottery money back to education. Chris Duncome at the Commonwealth Institute says money from expanding Medicaid will allow for both of those.

“There’s no reason why the House couldn’t also invest a portion of that undoing of lottery supplanting toward this add on at-risk program. They could use some of the savings from Medicaid expansion to invest in this program.”

And then there’s another issue that has yet to be resolved with the budget: Will teachers in Virginia get a two percent raise? The House has money for that. The Senate does not.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.