State budget includes funds for mechatronic program at BTEC, lost enrollment funds for schools

Two portions of the Virginia budget approved last week in conference committee between the House of Delegates and State Senate provide funding for a new pilot mechatronic engineering program at Botetourt Technical Education Center (BTEC) and an extra $153,580 for the county school division because of declining enrollment.

The mechatronics program funding will come in the next fiscal year that starts July 1, while the additional funds for a declining enrollment are for the current fiscal year.

BTEC is now slated to be the first secondary school in Virginia to offer a mechatronic engineering program for high school students.

School Superintendent John Busher announced the possibility last month when Del. Terry Austin submitted an amendment to the state budget that included $310,000 for faculty accreditation and equipment for a pilot first-year mechatronic technician course in a partnership with BTEC and Virginia Western Community College (VWCC). The funds are in the community college portion of the state budget.

The program will meet a need for employees for the new industries coming to Botetourt.

The program goal is to prepare 100 mechatronic engineering technicians over five years and a sustainable faculty preparation program.

This amendment provides funding for faculty accreditation and equipment for the pilot mechatronics technician program.

The Botetourt school division will be the recipient of an additional $153,580 from the state as part of the “Small School Division Enrollment Loss Fund” that’s included in the approved House/Senate budget.

School divisions that have fewer than 10,000 students and have lost 5 percent or more in enrollment (daily average membership) between March 31, 2011 and March 31, 2016 will receive an apportioned allocation from the nearly $7.3 million set aside for the program that will award from $75,000 to over $400,000 to 42 school divisions. Those include neighboring Bedford County, Craig County, Alleghany County and Buena Vista City.

The special funding is designed to offset the loss of state per-pupil funding that small school divisions cannot make up by consolidating services and facilities.

— Ed McCoy

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