Vetoes and budget amendments could negatively impact our students

Most Virginia families want the same thing for their children: highly qualified instructors in each classroom, safe and nurturing environments to learn in, and robust support services. That’s the common ground agenda that families and educators agree on. Governor Youngkin’s vetoes on Monday of HB398, SB586, HB805, and SB14 and proposed budget amendments that would reduce funding for public education take us in the opposite direction. All of these were Fund Our Schools priority bills supported by a large and bipartisan coalition of school advocates and lawmakers.

School construction funding: We supported HB805 and SB14 because voters in every locality should have the right to decide,  via referendum, whether to raise local funds for school construction. This autonomy should not be limited to the handful of localities that are currently allowed. Governor Youngkin’s veto of these bills disregards the dire state of our school infrastructure needs, and will make more of our students continue learning in buildings that desperately need repairs and upgrades – which is not conducive to their education.

Restorative justice: HB398 and SB586 would have encouraged the use of evidence-based restorative practices to address student behavior instead of immediate suspension. In schools that already use this restorative approach, this has led to safer and more productive environments for students and staff alike, which is why this legislation is supported by teachers unions and other education experts.

At this critical point in the budgetary process, the Governor’s proposed amendments to the conference budget signify a stark reduction in funding, withdrawing more than $600 million in state general fund direct aid for school divisions. The proposed cuts include over $162 million allocated for at-risk students, $47 million for English Learner services, $2.5 million from the School Breakfast Program, $5 million from Community Schools, and $170 million from digital services tax modernization, which directly impacts school divisions. 

These cuts are not just numbers on a page; they represent disinvestment from every child who benefits from at-risk programs, from every student finding their voice in English language services, from every hungry child who looks forward to school breakfast programs, and from every community enriched by the Community Schools initiative. 

The Conference budget, passed by a bipartisan vote in both chambers, and the other bills represented opportunities to create a better Virginia for our students – and by extension for all of us. State lawmakers will have their say on April 17th when they reconvene and we encourage them to reject these vetoes and budget cuts.n

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