‘Pandemic Patch-Up’ is Good, But Students Deserve More
December 16, 2020
December 16, 2020
Contact: John O’Neil, VEA Communications, 804-873-8316
VEA President Dr. James J. Fedderman issued the following statement on the budget amendments issued today by Governor Northam:
Virginia educators have responded heroically to the challenges posed by the coronavirus, but the pandemic laid bare Virginia’s consistent and severe underfunding of its public schools. Simply put, Virginia’s school funding structures allow wealthier school divisions to just get by, while school systems with poorer tax bases—and the students who attend schools there—suffer greatly.
We applaud Governor Northam’s budget commitment to hold schools harmless from enrollment declines that would have worsened their funding outlook. We also applaud the inclusion of additional funding for school counselors, whose skills are so vital and desperately needed as we endure this pandemic.
The Governor’s move to help localities by including $100 million to reduce retirement and health care liabilities is commendable, as it will help balance the increased costs local school divisions are facing in the COVID era.
We also approve of increased funding for salaries, but we note that a one-time bonus will scarcely move the needle on salaries for Virginia teachers, currently 32nd in the nation. The General Assembly adopted meeting the national average as a goal, but we have made no progress toward that goal. To recruit and retain the best, we must do much better.
We also believe the $650 million spent on building up the state’s cash reserve fund are desperately needed by our public schools.
Today’s proposal amount to a “pandemic patch-up” for K-12 public schools, leaving it to the members of the General Assembly—and future decision makers in the legislature, the Governor’s mansion, and local school boards and city and county offices—to invest in our students and those who educate them. Students deserve more than they have been afforded in 2020.