Our 2023 Legislative Priorities
The 2023 Virginia legislative session will begin on January 11 and end on February 23. During that time legislators will make important decisions regarding school funding. Below you can read more about the key policy priorities for our coalition that we will focus our efforts on advocating around!
Fully funding the revised Standards of Quality
In the fall of 2021, the Virginia Board of Education issued a set of Standards of Quality (SOQs) recommendations which, if funded, would go far to increase educational opportunity for Virginia’s children. To fully fund the Standards of Quality, the state needs to invest an additional $365 million into our schools in the 2023-2024 school year. This is just the minimum the state Board says is necessary to meet the state’s constitutional duty to ensure a high quality education for Virginia’s students. It is now up to the General Assembly to adopt and fully fund these SOQs. Learn why funding the Standards of Quality is crucial for students here.
Funding wraparound services
Student success in the classroom also requires a lot of support outside the classroom. In order to provide better support to Virginia’s highest-needs students, we need to fund wraparound support services such as after and before school programming, free lunch, mental health supports for students and educators, community school models, services and support for students and families learning English, and help for families navigating complex government systems such as immigration.
Make meaningful investments in student supports
Virginia students need more support, and a major part of that is more support staff. It’s long past time to improve staff/student ratios for positions such as school nurses, support staff for English Language Learners, guidance counselors, and special education support staff. In addition to internal support, Virginia students are in need of infrastructure improvements so that every child has a safe, clean and welcoming environment to learn, and safe, reliable, and timely transportation to and from school.
One major step towards improving these ratios would be lifting the Support Cap, created in 2009, which limits state funding for school support positions. Between 2009 and 2020, support staff in Virginia schools declined by 1,660 positions while student enrollment increased by more than 62,000 students. The number of support staff that the state recognizes and provides funding to support has fallen even faster, dropping by 13,870 positions over that same period. The Virginia Board of Education has repeatedly recommended lifting this arbitrary and damaging cap. Learn more about why Virginia needs to remove the support cap for school support positions here.
Increase teacher and school staff compensation
Virginia schools are at a breaking point for staffing challenges, in large part due to our incredibly low pay for teachers and staff. In order to reach the national average for teacher pay in the 2023-2024 school year, we would have to increase teacher salaries by 10.32%. While pay has improved over the past couple of years, including a 5% raise last year as a result of widespread advocacy, much more is needed. With our historic budget surplus, it’s time for lawmakers to make bold investments to improve teacher and staff salaries and get us on track to reach the national teacher pay average over the next few years. Learn more about increasing teacher and staff pay here!
Preventing the diversion of funding from K-12 public schools
With students and schools still recovering from the setbacks of the pandemic, we can’t afford to shift investments to voucher programs, tax credit programs that redirect public K-12 funding into private schools and have track records of hurting student outcomes, nor can we afford large tax cuts that would prevent Virginia from fully funding its schools. Research is clear that investing in public schools improves student outcomes, graduation, and postsecondary enrollment. Lawmakers should look to invest in evidence-based initiatives like funding the revised Standards of Quality and lifting the support cap. Learn more about how programs like vouchers and savings accounts undermine our students’ learning and schools in our fact sheet here.