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At events in Salem and Roanoke on Friday, Gov. Bob McDonnell said the two school systems will receive grants and that the next state budget should increase education funding.
STEPHANIE KLEIN-DAVIS | The Roanoke Times
Gov. Bob McDonnell (from left), Sen. John Edwards, Sen. Steve Newman and Norfolk Southern CEO Wick Moorman were among the officials at the Railside Amphitheater in Roanoke on Friday to signal their commitment to bringing passenger rail service back to the city.
Saturday, August 10, 2013
As Gov. Bob McDonnell announced two Roanoke Valley school systems are receiving significant grant funds to reward high performing educators, he also said he expects his next and final budget to increase spending for K-12 and higher education.
During events in Salem and Roanoke on Friday, McDonnell said his spending plan would also aim to boost the state's Rainy Day Fund to more than $1 billion, and announced Salem and Roanoke schools were receiving the largest performance-pay grants in the state.
The two systems are among 13 statewide receiving a portion of $4.5 million in grants that are part McDonnell's Strategic Compensation Grant Initiative, a key part of his education agenda.
Salem is receiving the largest grant. The system will get $850,000 to provide incentives of up to $5,000 for teachers who meet individual, school and division goals
Roanoke will get the second largest grant of $706,307 to provide incentives of $5,000 for 125 teachers at Garden City, Morningside and Westside elementary schools, who meet performance goals.
McDonnell made the announcement at Andrew Lewis Middle School during the first stop on a weeklong tour through the state. The initiative, expected to give additional funds to about 1,400 teachers statewide, was inspired by a performance incentive program developed in Salem.
"It's just wow. It's absolutely wonderful," Salem Superintendent Alan Seibert said.
Salem's plans for the grant funds differ somewhat from Roanoke's. The money will be used throughout the district, and a point system will determine how much incentive pay educators receive based on student achievement and other elements.
McDonnell said during the announcement the state isn't dictating specifics on how to use the funding or using a top-down approach.
"You create what works for you," he said.
McDonnell gave education and transportation pride of place as he kicked his statewide tour to tout his administration's accomplishments.
He said his final budget would boost funding for higher education, in order to continue to hold down the tuition students pay, and said that he expected more funds for K-12 education.
In addition to boosting the Rainy Day Fund - the state's reserve for the unexpected - by about $200 million to exceed $1 billion, McDonnell said he also hopes his last budget will tackle the Virginia Retirement System's funding gaps.
He said he felt this year's transportation funding compromise, which will among other things clear the way for the return of passenger rail service to Roanoke, was a major accomplishment.
So, too, was his education reform agenda, as McDonnell noted several measures now coming to fruition. He said all children need access to a good education no matter their ZIP code.
"We think it starts with a great teacher and a great classroom," he said.
Among the measures now being implemented, he noted A-F grades for schools, changes to teacher tenure, a state school district to take over failing schools and a 2 percent raise for educators for districts that chose to participate.
Many educators across Virginia did see a raise for the first time in years thanks to state money that paid for the state's share of Standards of Quality-funded positions.
But that raise never became a reality for Salem educators because officials couldn't find the money to pay their share of such raises. The system was one of a dozen statewide to forgo the funds.
The Salem middle school stop was the first in the governor's swing through the state intended to highlight Virginia's progress under his administration, something he does each summer.
In Roanoke, McDonnell joined with Norfolk Southern Chairman Wick Moorman, Amtrak Vice President Joe McHugh and Roanoke Mayor David Bowers to sign the formal memorandum of understanding that clears the way for all to work together on the passenger rail effort.
That effort aims to return passenger service to Roanoke for the first time in 34 years. State and railroad officials are studying the rail line between Roanoke and Lynchburg and looking at where to put a station, platform and train storage facility in Roanoke, aiming to have a service running in three to four years.
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