Budget squabbles between the House and Senate are a normal part of business in the Virginia legislature. But debate broke out quickly this year after both chambers released their spending plans for K-12 education, which lay out competing visions on school construction, teacher pay and new “innovation” schools championed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
Virginia Democrats claimed the Republican-led House plan would strip schools of funding, while Garren Shipley, a spokesperson for House Speaker Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, described it as “the largest K-12 budget in Virginia history.” And while some rural localities are applauding the House for its school construction plan, Richmond’s public school district is urging families to advocate for the Senate’s proposal.
Lawmakers still have to reconcile the two plans before they adjourn, meaning the final K-12 budget still has plenty of time to change. But the battle underscores the political divide between both chambers and the diverse range of needs within Virginia’s public school system. It’s true that the House proposal allocates less overall for public education than the Senate spending plan. But it also presents an unconventional mechanism for funding new school construction — a major and long-standing priority for many struggling districts.