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Northern Virginia leaders cheer McDonnell's school funding decision

Anita Kumar

It's been decades since Bob McDonnell lived in Northern Virginia, but that didn't stop him from repeatedly telling area residents on the campaign trail last year that he was one of them. This week, many Northern Virginia leaders say Virginia's new governor proved just that.

McDonnell announced yesterday that he opposes a freeze in the adjustment to the school funding formula proposed by his predecessor -- former Democratic governor Gov. Tim Kaine -- that would have cost cash-strapped schools in Northern Virginia nearly $140 million. Read today's story here.

"Last year, candidate McDonnell campaigned as 'Fairfax's Own,' " Del. Mark L. Keam (D-Fairfax) said. "I'm very glad to see that Governor McDonnell is living up to this campaign promise."

Northern Virginia legislators, local officials, business leaders -- even of the opposing party --are rejoicing.

"It's a very helpful move on his part.'' Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) said. "The freeze was an injust decision by the previous governor, and I'm pleased we have the support of the current governor to change it."

But the decision could hurt other regions and it's unclear whether they will now mount the sort of fierce lobbying campaign Northern Virginia waged.

Virginia Beach City Public Schools Superintendent James G. Merrill, whose proposed budget already includes $32 million in cuts, worries that it may be too late. His district could lose another $15 million if the proposed freeze is lifted.

"We've not been as organized as well as Northern Virginia," Merrill said. "I just hope he has not made up his mind."

The House and Senate still need to include the change in the versions of the budgets they write and will release Feb. 21. But McDonnell has spoken to budget negotiators and his advisers said they are confident the change will be included.

Sen. Charles J. Colgan (D-Prince William), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said he hopes the Senate will include the language in its budget but negotiators have not yet discussed it. "It took some courage to do this, and I'm glad he did it," he said.

By Anita Kumar  |  February 9, 2010; 7:30 AM ET
Categories:  2010 legislative session , Anita Kumar , Fairfax County , Fairfax County Board of Supervisors , General Assembly , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Loudoun County , Prince William , Robert F. McDonnell , State Senate , Timothy M. Kaine  
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