We have been hard at work during this legislative session fighting for our policy priorities and to protect gains made in previous sessions. You can read more about our policy priorities and why they’re important here. We have now reached the functional halfway point, known as “Crossover,” when bills that have been passed by one chamber will advance to the other. Here are some updates on key legislation that Fund Our Schools has been involved with:
Funding the Standards of Quality
- HB1135 and SB490 were introduced to fully fund the Virginia Board of Education’s prescribed Standards of Quality (SOQs).
- HB1135 was passed in a bipartisan manner by the House Education Committee and sent to the House Appropriations Committee, but was never docketed. The proposal was defeated after crossover since it was not voted out of the House.
- The Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee passed an amended version of SB490 to mandate four specialized support staff for every 1,000 students (up from the current ratio of three positions to every 1,000 students). While this is a much more limited approach, the new SB490 is still a step forward towards funding Virginia’s prescribed SOQs. SB490 has passed the Senate and will now be considered by the House.
- HB1184 and SB156 were proposed to implement the portion of the SOQs to provide schools with more English Learner teachers using a tiered proficiency-based approach. While the tiered approach is not advancing this year, a new version of SB156 that implements the proposed state budget’s increase in funding to 22 English Learner teachers for every 1,000 students has passed the Senate.
Increasing Teacher and Staff Pay
- SB157 would have provided a 5% annual increase in teacher and staff pay until Virginia reached the national average teacher salary, but was continued to 2023 by the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee. This means it failed to pass this legislative session, but will be heard again during the 2023 session.
- The budget proposed by Gov. Northam in December 2021, serving as the basis for the next two-year budget, includes a proposal to fund 5% salary increases each year, effective July 1, 2022 and 2023, for funded SOQ instructional and support positions.
Investing in School infrastructure
- A number of proposals have advanced to increase and protect funding for school construction, including SB471, SB472, SB473, SB481, and HB563.
Standing Against Cuts and Repurposing of Public School Funding
- Many bills were introduced to expand charter schools in the state and divert state dollars away from public education, most of which were defeated.
- However, HB1024 to establish Education Savings Accounts, which are a type of voucher proposal that would direct funds from public K-12 schools, has passed the House and is up for consideration by the Senate.
- HB356, introduced to establish regional charter school divisions under certain circumstances, has also passed the House and will now be up for consideration in the Senate. Fund Our Schools continues to monitor and oppose these bills.
Lifting the Support Cap
- The support cap is an arbitrary limit on the number of school support staff and was imposed to save money during the Great Recession and has lingered on, sharply reducing the number of staff such as custodians, food service staff, and counselors who are available to support students. Proposed budget amendments 137 #6h, 137 #21h, 137 #12h, 137 #15s, and 137 #9s would lift this cap.
On Sunday, February 20, the House Appropriations Committee and Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee will release their proposed two-year budgets. On February 11 we, along with the Coalition of Small and Rural Schools, sent a memo to both committees with recommendations for K-12 investments in that budget. We held a press conference on Monday, February 14, where many of our groups stressed the importance of our recommendations. You can watch the livestream of that press conference here.
Thank you to everyone who testified, submitted public comments, and made calls and emails to your elected officials to make progress on these important issues! These advancements are only possible due to your continued advocacy for our students, schools, and communities.