Strong Schools mean Strong Communities. Protecting school funding is vital to creating and sustaining strong schools. With students and schools still recovering from the setbacks of the pandemic, we can’t afford to start shifting investments to unproven programs like vouchers and education savings account schemes that have poor track records for improving student outcomes. Research is clear that investing in public schools improves student outcomes, graduation rates, and postsecondary enrollment. Lawmakers should look to invest in research-backed initiatives that our Board of Education and student-advocacy groups in the state have been pointing to for years, like funding the revised Standards of Quality and lifting the support cap.
Protect Our Public Schools – Get the Facts
Fully implement and fund the revised Standards of Quality and Lift the Support Cap. SUPPORT HB 2111 AND SB1325. SUPPORT BUDGET AMENDMENTS 137 #31h & #34h AND 137 #5s.
- Every student needs access to a high-quality education, and we have a clear evidence-based guide developed by the Virginia Board of Education (the SOQs) over the past decades outlining the school staffing levels and professional development needed to provide that high-quality education.
- All of the prescriptions, from investing in principals, reading specialists, English learner-instructor ratios by language ability, and additional support to our highest poverty divisions through the At-Risk Add-On are highly effective with strong returns on investment for improving student outcomes.
- Fully funding the SOQs has been a long-time priority of virtually every education advocacy organization in the state because the recommendations are seen as indisputably effective and high yield for improving student outcomes. The estimated cost of fully funding the SOQs next year is $366 million.
Provide funding to ensure teacher salaries are at or above the national average and that school employees earn a livable wage. SUPPORT HB 1566 AND SB1215
- At a time of major staffing shortages, we need prudent investments that improve retention and real investment in the education workforce. A reasonable starting place would be proposals that get Virginia educators to the national teacher pay average and pay our school support staff a livable wage.
- According to the most recent state-by-state comparison, Virginia’s average teacher salary is $6,787 below the national average, which ranks our state 25 nationally. In contrast, Virginia continually ranks among the richer states in the country, recently ranking 12 among the states in per capita personal income.
- Teachers in Virginia are paid an average of 67 cents for each dollar paid to their similarly educated peers in other professions. This is the third largest teacher pay penalty in the country. State funding is currently in place for a five percent salary increase for SOQ-funded positions this year and next. (And based on the increase in average salaries over 2021-22 levels, it looks as though many divisions are participating in the compensation incentive this year.) Unfortunately, we are so far behind that even this potential 10.25% increase (assuming full participation by divisions in both years) is unlikely to get Virginia’s average teacher salary to the national average. In fact, VEA estimates an additional six percent increase will be needed in the second year of the biennium (for a total increase in FY24 of 11%) to achieve that goal.
- The good news is that the state is currently in an excellent position to make much-needed consequential improvements to teacher salaries (as well as other areas of school funding), having closed out FY22 with a record $1.9 billion surplus and now anticipating up to $3.6 billion in excess resources this fiscal year. State policymakers must protect and enhance the ability of local governments to pay their share of school costs, including the local share of teacher pay increases. Fully lifting the school staff support cap would be a major step to assist local school divisions to meet this goal.
Scale the initial and continuing state supplement for National Board Certification Incentive Awards and cover fees for educators seeking certification to encourage high-quality professional development. SUPPORT HB 1424 AND SB1260.
- Multiple studies demonstrate students with a National Board Certified have learning gains of up to 2 months more than peers who do not have an NBCT teaching them. These outcomes are even more prevalent among minority & lower-income students. Studies also suggest students of NBCTs experience deeper learning than their counterparts with non-NBCT teachers.
- A study examining teacher retention in South Carolina found significantly lower turnover rates among NBCTs compared to non-NBCTs. Many NBCTs refer to the National Board process as their most impactful professional learning experience. Financial Barriers Remain for Many Educators.
- Although Virginia offers a stipend for eligible NBCTs, many educators simply cannot afford to pursue National Board Certification which costs a minimum of $1975 (if all components are successfully completed in one year—the process can cost some educators more than $4000 if more time or additional attempts to achieve certification are required). Our neighbors Maryland, North Carolina, and West Virginia provide financial support for the certification process.
More adequately fund and support for English Learner services and expand the flexibility of state support. SUPPORT HB 1823, HB1824, SB1118, AND SB 1109.
- More than 1 in 8 Virginia K-12 students are current or former EL students.
- For state supplemental support of EL students, Virginia only contributes a third (13.5%) of the national average (39%) beyond the baseline allocation. Virginia’s budget for this and next fiscal year failed to include any new targeted EL funding, despite including $22 million on first draft.
- Unlike other states, Virginia fails to fund training for general education teachers who work most with EL students and doesn’t support EL learning materials.
- Provide more adequate state funding to support EL students, similar to the national average for state supplemental support – this would be a supplement around $132 to $169 million annually.
- Fund Virginia Board of Education updates to the Standards of Quality to increase EL instructor to student ratios more for students with less English proficiency, as national experts recommend.
- Follow the example of states like Maryland and Michigan, and commission independent studies to assess adequate state-funding levels for EL students.
Every student needs access to a high-quality education, and we have a clear evidence-based guide developed by the Virginia Board of Education (the SOQs) over the past decades outlining the school staffing levels and professional development needed to provide that high-quality education. All of the prescriptions, from investing in principals, reading specialists, English learner instructor ratios by language ability, and additional support to our highest poverty divisions through the At-Risk Add-On are highly effective with strong returns on investment for improving student outcomes. Fully funding the SOQs has been a long-time priority of virtually every education advocacy organization in the state because the recommendations are seen as indisputably effective and high yield for improving student outcomes. The estimated cost of fully funding the SOQs next year is $366 million. SOQ Fact Sheet
While progress was made in the recent budget by providing the state portion of a 5% salary increase for school staff positions, with exceptionally high inflation rates, it is likely many school employees will have reduced spending power compared to their 2021-2022 earnings. Virginia could make meaningful progress and possibly exceed the national teacher pay average by offering an additional raise of 6 percentage points beyond the planned 5% state salary increase for funded school positions next year. We call on the state to increase salaries by 11% in the coming year to reach this goal. Fact Sheet || Fund Our Schools Memo with Technical Details
With students and schools still recovering from the setbacks of the pandemic, we can’t afford to start shifting investments to unproven programs like vouchers and savings accounts that have poor track records for improving student outcomes. Research is clear that investing in public schools improves student outcomes, graduation rates and postsecondary enrollment. Lawmakers should look to invest in research-backed initiatives that our Board of Education and student-advocacy groups in the state have been pointing to for years, like funding the revised Standards of Quality and lifting the support cap which adds to our current support staff shortages. Voucher and Savings Accounts Fact Sheet || Charter School Fact Sheet || Lab School Fact Sheet
Share Your Story
I was preparing to enjoy a luncheon and saw a co-worker put a burger in the refrigerator from the lunchroom. When asked why they weren’t going to eat what had been prepared for us, the reply was, “I’m taking it home for my son’s supper.”
I have co-workers borrow money for gas to get to work.
Nine out of the 10 custodians in my building are the sole providers for their families.
Without a serious look at substantial salary increases for professional educators across the Commonwealth of Virginia, we simply will not retain them. Educators may be forced to consider relocating out of state, accepting recruitment offers for better-paying jobs, or simply leave the field. The commonwealth needs to send a clear message that it values its amazing educators, and appreciates and supports the work they do, by significantly increasing school funding.
Our pay scale was frozen in 2008, which we were told was “temporary.” While there have been a few raises since then, none have come close to the 3 percent yearly cost of living increases typically found in Central Virginia.
Since the freeze, staff turnover has increased dramatically, fewer schools have reached accreditation, and class sizes have increased. We’ve also got seventh-graders using history textbooks printed in George W. Bush’s first year in office, buildings leak, and department budgets have not increased since the 1990s.
Do I work non-stop and risk burning out and not enjoying life as much, or do I cut back on extra work but have no money to do fun things or help work toward buying a house? There’s no winning…I went into teaching because of my love of children and learning. I knew I wouldn’t get rich, but I thought I’d make enough to live comfortably. Instead, I’m stuck without the ability to buy a house and I’m continuously in debt.
Teachers in our school division do after-school remediation classes for free because the county can’t afford to pay them for it, and one of our four school buildings will not get needed renovations for the same reason.
My library budget has been cut, so I’ve canceled our monthly book shipments.
WE ARE THE VEA
When it comes to stepping up for public education in the Commonwealth, no organization can match the work—or the effectiveness—of the Virginia Education Association. VEA members, who are classroom teachers and education support professionals, have been advocating for students, educators, and schools since 1863. Many of the improvements in education since then have come as a result of Association effort.