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.
The Virginia Board of Education recently sent their recommendations to lawmakers for updating our Standards of Quality — the minimum funding standards to provide K-12 students an adequate education. These updates include nearly $813 million in new state spending for essential positions like school counselors, social workers, instructors of English learners, reading specialists, funding for high-poverty divisions, and much more. It’s now up to lawmakers to fund these recommendations, which they failed to do for far too long.
Virginia’s dilapidated and outdated school infrastructure hampers student achievement and health, teacher retention, school overhead costs, and local property values.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 supported schools directly with tens of millions of dollars in state aid for school construction grants and subsidized financing.
It’s been a high-stakes time for K-12 funding in Virginia as state lawmakers have gotten together to decide how to spend the $4.3 billion from the American Rescue Plan. Thanks to the countless advocates who took the time to email and call lawmakers to lift up our collective priorities, we had some important wins for Virginia students and families.