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January 23, 2023

Why Education is a Big Topic in Virginia Budget Convo

New TCI report provides background on Virginia’s education funding problems, how that impacts Virginia students, and what’s before legislators this year

Legislators can take significant steps this session toward the goal of high-quality schools in every community by finally lifting the arbitrary cap on state funding for support staff, providing the state’s share of what Virginia’s own Board of Education says is needed for a high-quality education, and making targeted investments to help students who are struggling the most, according to a new report by The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis. The report includes information on how state underfunding has concretely harmed Virginia students, and also includes discussion of how specific policy proposals under consideration this year would help expand educational opportunity.

“Every child in Virginia should have great public schools in their community, and the state needs to finally do its share to make that happen,” said Laura Goren, Director of Research and Education Policy at The Commonwealth Institute. “Policymakers must first fulfill Virginia’s commitments to our schools before even considering tax breaks for profitable corporations and wealthy individuals. When the state doesn’t do its share, children in low-income communities–both rural and urban–are left without the resources they need to thrive, since their local governments can’t afford to make up the difference.”

The report includes new estimates of the additional teachers and other school staff that the state would help fund if the legislature and governor agree on a budget that funds the Virginia Board of Education’s prescribed Standards of Quality and lifts the cap on state funding for support staff. District-by-district estimates of new positions and new state funding are also available. 

Proposals before the General Assembly to fully fund the Board-prescribed Standards of Quality would provide the state share of funding for:

  • 1,490 more assistant principals
  • 1,200 more physical and behavioral health providers
  • 1,100 more school counselors
  •  700 more instructors for English learners
  • Principal and teacher mentoring programs
  • Additional supports such as work-based learning coordination

The report also provides information on proposals before the General Assembly that would lift the cap on state funding for support staff, which would provide the state share of funding for about 6,500 additional support staff. This would restore state funding that was cut during the Great Recession and provide fiscal relief for local cities and counties who have been paying for 6 out of 10 support staff positions without any help from the state.

“The arbitrary cap Virginia has set for funding support staff doesn’t reflect actual school division staffing practices or the evidence-based, research-driven best practices prescribed by the Virginia Board of Education,” said Jenna Alexander, President-Elect of the Virginia Parent Teacher Association. “It’s time for Virginia to raise the bar and commit to student success.”

The Commonwealth Institute

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