Spending on elementary and secondary education will go up in the budget Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) is preparing, the governor said at a luncheon with reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday.

“I can tell you K-12 will go up in this budget,” McDonnell said to a gathering for AP Day at the Capitol, an annual gathering of journalists for a day of panel discussions and, this year, a debate between U.S. Senate candidates Timothy Kaine (D) and George Allen (R).

The governor, who will release his two-year budget plan later this month, did not elaborate on how much education spending would increase. But the statement came as something as a surprise: It followed a panel discussion on education, during which participants seemed to be bracing for education cuts.

“Funding is going to be tough,” said Del. Steve Landes (R-Weyers Cave), who was on the education panel.

During the coming General Assembly session, McDonnell told the group, he also plans to push for more charter schools and other ways to improve school choice. He said he also intends to improve school flexibility and accountability, and to shore up the teacher retirement system.

“Money is one thing,” McDonnell said. “It’s not the only thing.”