As one lawmaker observes, negotiating the state budget and determining how well talks are going is like answering the question, “How high is up?” But overall, conferees say talks are moving along, after working long hours this week. Some of their differences have little to do with party lines.
One is the Governor’s plan to eliminate Cost of Competing Adjustment funding for school support staff.
The COCA formula helps determine how much each area receives to help fund education. Senator Emmett Hangar says there is some consensus between members of both chambers and parties to provide this funding. But they have not determined how much due to limited resources –and the changing dynamic with the school composite index greatly impacts how funds are divided:
“It’s shifting in a way that’s favorable to some of these communities and localities that have had the higher composite index so that they’re actually going to get additional funds through the composite index at the same time that many of the rural localities around the state are seeing their composite index go up in a way that would cause them to receive less funding from the state,” says Hangar.
Northern Virginia lawmakers argue that an estimated $65-million loss would impact their school districts the most. They say their districts need the funds to help them compete with Maryland and the District of Columbia to attract and maintain the best school personnel … and that the cuts would result in fewer raises and the loss of that competitive edge.