On October 20, the Virginia Board of Education (VBOE) met to discuss a number of items, including the first review of guidelines for implementing the School Construction Assistance Program in the 2022-2024 Biennium. This program was created by enacted budget language from the 2022 General Assembly session which dedicates $450 million to provide competitive grants for school construction and modernization, based on demonstrated poor building conditions, commitment, and need. Grants would cover 10% to 30% of reasonable project costs, depending on a locality’s local composite index and fiscal stress score.
This effort is part of a package of $1.25 billion in state funding supported by VACo and approved by the General Assembly and Governor Youngkin dedicated towards the issue of school construction and modernization. At their last meeting, VBOE approved changes to the Literary Fund required by enacted legislation that frees up $400 million in Literary Fund dollars to be sued for low-interest loans. The Literary Fund has recently been used to pay the state’s share of employer contributions to the Virginia Retirement System’s Teacher Plan and has not been a viable source of school construction funding for local governments. Another program included in the $1.25 billion package is the School Construction Grant Program, which provides $400 million in Direct Aid to school divisions for construction and modernization projects or debt service payments on school projects that have been completed or initiated during the last 10 years.
Unlike the School Construction Grant Program grant program, the proposed guidelines for the School Construction Assistance Program limits eligible projects to new projects. Other proposed criteria include local commitment of funds, demonstrated need, and school building conditions.
During the course of the meeting, VBOE member Anne Holton asked VDOE staff to ensure that feedback from statewide associations in the K-12 sector provide feedback. VACo submitted comments to VBOE and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow stressing the need for maximum flexibility and encourages members interested in this funding opportunity to do so as well. The Board of Education will likely take of second review of these proposed guidelines for the School Construction Assistance Program when it meets again on November 17. Members who do wish to submit comments to VBOE are encouraged to do so as soon as possible.
VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett