Our 2022 Legislative Priorities
The 2022 General Assembly session that begins in January holds both promise and threats for advancing our shared legislative priorities to fully and fairly fund Virginia’s schools.
Lawmakers will have more than $10 billion dollars in general funds available to them to finally move Virginia out of the bottom tier for state pre-K-12 funding. There will also be profound changes in terms of legislative leadership and proposed bills. As always, Fund Our Schools will prioritize evidence-based policy solutions to improve outcomes and create conditions for all students and staff to thrive. Likewise, our coalition will stand against cuts or redirection of K-12 public school funding and initiatives shown to hurt student outcomes.
Here are our five legislative priorities for the 2022 session:
Fully Fund 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. 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 these SOQs, and fully fund it. Learn why funding the Standards of Quality is crucial for students here.
Lift the Support Cap, Which Limits Funding for School Support Positions
In 2009, lawmakers added language to the budget creating a “cap” on support staff funding — cutting hundreds of millions in state funding for support staff. Between 2009 and 2019, support staff in Virginia schools has declined by 2,800 positions while student enrollment increased by more than 57,000 students. The Virginia Board of Education has repeatedly recommended lifting this arbitrary and damaging cap; doing so over the upcoming budget would cost $778 million. We explain more about why Virginia needs to remove the support cap for school support positions here.
Bold Investments to Start Providing Adequate Teacher and Staff Pay
Virginia schools are reaching a breaking point for staffing challenges due to our incredibly low pay for teachers and staff. According to the Economic Policy Institute, Virginia has the least competitive teacher salaries in the country compared to professions with similar education levels. While pay has improved over the past couple of years, it would take far too many years at that incremental pace for Virginia to provide competitive salaries. 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!
Invest in School Infrastructure
Virginia’s dilapidated and outdated school infrastructure hampers student achievement and health, teacher retention, school overhead costs, and local property values. Since at least the 1980s, Virginia provided tens of millions of dollars in direct state aid for school construction grants and subsidized financing. In the wake of the Great Recession, however, the zeroing out of the school grant program and greatly diminished support for school construction from the Literary Fund drastically reduced state support for school infrastructure projects. Today, the state has identified around $24 billion in needed K-12 school infrastructure updates. With billions of dollars in budget surplus this year, it’s time for the state to reinvest in ongoing school infrastructure support and seize the opportunity to further invest hundreds of millions from our remaining federal relief funds. Check out this fact sheet from the Coalition of Small and Rural Schools of Virginia to learn more.
Stand Against Cuts and Repurposing of K-12 Public Schools Funding
With students and schools still recovering from the setbacks of the pandemic, we can’t afford to shift investments to voucher and tax credit programs that redirect public K-12 funding and have track records of hurting student outcomes. Research is clear that investing in public schools improves student outcomes, graduation and postsecondary enrollment. Lawmakers should look to invest in evidence-based initiatives that our Board of Education and student-advocacy groups in the state have promoted for years, 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.