Late last week, after months of debate, public comment, and meetings, the Virginia Board of Education approved their official recommendations to revise the Standards of Quality (SOQ) – our state’s minimum standards for supporting K-12 public schools. The Board recommended the state spend an additional $809 million annually on K-12 to adequately support students! Now the governor and lawmakers in the General Assembly must decide if they will fund these critical recommendations. State lawmakers have a long history of only funding a small portion of these recommendations, if anything. As a result, Virginia spends among the least in the country per student.
Money matters in education because increased school resources are associated with improved student outcomes. The recommendations from the Board would strengthen one of our most valuable, needed resources: educator staffing. The new SOQs include improved staffing for a number of school positions, such as reading specialists, English Learner instructors, nurses, counselors, social workers, mental health specialists, assistant principals, elementary principals, and much more. In addition, there’s more than $100 million for teacher leader and mentorship programs to help build and retain effective teachers and more than $70 million for the Enhanced At-Risk Add-On, which would support school divisions with higher concentrations of students living in poverty.
While there was discussion among the Board members about weakening some of the recommendations for counselors and the At-Risk Add-On, advocates spoke up, saying this support was needed by students more than ever. In the end, the Board agreed and voted to keep their original recommendations in place.
This was a major win on our quest for fair and equitable K-12 funding in Virginia, and it was possible only because of advocates like you. The next step is to get lawmakers to fund these recommendations when they come back together in January for the 2022 legislative session. We will keep you informed and let you know about ways to take action in the lead up to and during session.
Thank you for your continued support in the fight to improve school funding in Virginia.
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