The two goals of the Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative — cutting in half the number of residents living within the Rural Horseshoe who lack a high school diploma or its equivalent, from nearly 20 percent to 10 percent, and doubling the percentage of rural residents who earn an associate degree or other college certification from 26 percent to 52 percent – inspired Gov. Terry McAuliffe to propose investing half a million dollars in the effort over the next two years.
The RVHI spending proposal was included in the record $1 billion biennial state budget McAuliffe introduced a few weeks before the start of the 2016 General Assembly session.
McAuliffe mentioned the investment in his State of the Commonwealth Address, while discussing the need to modernize Virginia’s education system and increase student achievement numbers.
“As Governor Jerry Baliles has noted in his work on the Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative, 21 percent, or more than 400,000 rural residents, have less than a high school diploma,” McAuliffe said.
Figures like that can be daunting. Economic analysis indicated that as many as two-thirds of the 1.5 million jobs that will be filled over the next decade will demand more than a high school diploma.
“We are grateful for the vote of confidence the Governor’s budget proposal represents,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “We have long said that this initiative is a public-private partnership to address a disparity in education that has gone on for too long. The best opportunities, and the best jobs, in the 21st century will require a postsecondary credential. Every Virginian, no matter where they live, deserves a chance at the American Dream and we want to ensure they have that chance.”
While the proposal is encouraging, it is far from certain to happen. The 60-day legislative session offers all 140 members of the General Assembly to propose their own changes and amendments to the budget, as both House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee create their budget proposals. The differences are eventually ironed out toward the end of the session in a budget conference committee consisting of members of both chambers.
The legislative session is scheduled to conclude Saturday, March 12, 2016.
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