Strong, well-supported public schools are vital to ensuring that every child in every zip code is able to pursue their educational and career ambitions. But Virginia does not invest enough in its K-12 schools to fulfill its constitutional obligation to ensure that every child receives a high-quality education. Across Virginia, in communities that cannot afford to supplement state funding for education, student outcomes suffer while students and educators languish in crumbling buildings with inadequate technology, textbooks, and other resources. Even in communities that can more easily afford to supplement the state’s investment, schools don’t have the resources to provide additional support to students who need it.
Now is the time for Virginia to take the lead and make high-quality education our calling card. We can do this by eliminating recession-era gimmicks, such as the state’s cap on support staff, and by improving the equity of our funding structure to ensure that each student has the resources and opportunities to be successful. Virginia is a high-income state with the resources to invest in creating broadly shared opportunity and prosperity. How we choose to invest our shared resources through the state budget shapes the commonwealth’s future and can fortify the building blocks of opportunity, such as education and public health. With adequate investments through the state budget, we can make educational opportunity a reality that lifts every individual student to new heights and, with them, the communities they live in.
Every student, regardless of race, ethnicity, family income, or zip code, should attend well-staffed public schools where they have instructional, social, and emotional support to be successful. Yet staffing in Virginia’s schools has declined over the past decade, while student enrollment has increased dramatically. School counselors, social workers, psychologists, nurses, and other vital support professionals are faced with overwhelming student caseloads. Virginia must fund adequate staffing standards for student support positions.
Just Compensation and Supports for Educators
Educators are the heart of Virginia’s schools. Recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce of highly qualified educators is crucial to ensuring that every Virginia student has a meaningful opportunity to learn. But Virginia teacher salaries trail the national average, teacher turnover is high, and teachers lack access to mentorship and growth opportunities. Virginia must invest in a teacher workforce with competitive salaries and robust opportunities for professional growth.
Each child has unique strengths, interests, habits, and challenges, and Virginia’s public education system must meet the needs of every student in every zip code. Across the state, students from low-income households consistently underperform in school when compared to their wealthier peers. Low-income children often need additional academic, health, and family support to achieve success in schools. But Virginia actually spends less per student in the highest-poverty school divisions than in the wealthier divisions. Virginia must prioritize equity and allocate resources based on student needs.
Racial and Ethnic Justice
Every student in Virginia, regardless of their race or ethnicity, should receive an equitable, high-quality public education. Unfortunately, our public schools have been underfunded for decades, contributing to the perpetuation of systemic racism towards Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and Pacific Islander students. Across the Commonwealth, many of our public schools remain sites of inequity and continue to disproportionately deny Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and Pacific Islander students access to educational resources that they need to be successful. Fund Our Schools is committed to advocating for antiracist policies and practices, and demands that Virginia’s lawmakers enact policy change that moves us toward dismantling systemic racism and oppression within our public school system.