WITH Gramm-Rudman-Hollings numbers, the once-soothing green hue in Virginia's coffers may start to pale. But enough is there to make do, and so Gov. Gerald Baliles is right to honor one of the most important financial farewell wishes of his predecessor, Charles Robb. That means sticking with a proposed massive commitment of state money to education -- and making some changes in the formula for spreading these dollars around. The legislature may wish to adjust the strings the Robb proposal would tie to state aid to local schools, but the objective of raising teacher salaries should not be lost.
At a joint subcommittee session this week, a number of legislators expressed unhappiness with a proposal that the state mandate certain actions, including 10 percent increases in average teacher salaries in certain parts of the state. The idea is to raise the Virginia average above the projected national median of $26,897 in the second year of the budget. The effect would be to require those school systems with the lowest teacher pay to use at least some of the increased state aid for salary increases rather than for other operational costs.
Under the proposal, school systems would have to demonstrate that they applied the first-year increases to teacher pay raises before they were eligible for another increase in state aid in the second year of the two-year budget cycle. Systems that already pay teachers an average of more than $24,547 -- including those in Northern Virginia -- would be exempt from the requirement.
Fair enough. Were there merely a 10 percent pay raise required, no matter what -- without tying it to a specific minimum -- those systems already paying higher salaries would be penalized for their previous exertions. Those systems may decide for themselves whether to commit state money to pay raises.
The legislators may conclude that because of Gramm-Rudman and other budget demands, adjustments are necessary in the total amount proposed for education. But the emphasis on continued improvements in the schools and colleges is altogether justified.