Senate’s Budget Proposal Values Schools Much More than House Version
February 7, 2023
February 7, 2023
Virginia’s Senate and House put forth very different visions for Virginia in the budgets they arrived at this week. While the Senate proposed a substantial increase in education funding to help students living in poverty, English Learners, and others, the House cut direct aid to schools and failed to make meaningful new public education investments.
The Senate invested in research-based interventions, such as lifting the “support cap,” which limits needed support staff positions and which the VEA and virtually every education advocacy group have been calling to dismantle for more than a decade. The Senate increases school-based mental health positions, instructional aides, reading specialists, and English Learner teachers, and adds funding for high poverty schools and to expand the involvement of a non-profit, Communities in Schools, to provide wraparound services in schools.
Both the House and the Senate budgets provide an additional 2% pay increase for state supported school employees in the next school year, bringing the state portion to 7%. Even if most localities are able to meet their local match obligations to get the full 7% increase, Virginia will only be on track to get back to average teacher pay levels from the start of the 2020-21 school year (inflation adjusted). The Senate budget further supports teachers by tripling the stipend for those who earn National Board Certification and provides a $1,000 bonus for state-supported school employees this December. While bonuses are nice, we will still be 3% away from reaching the national teacher pay average next school year, even with a 7% increase, and VEA will keep fighting to make school staff pay competitive in future budgets.
The House prioritizes tax giveaways for profitable corporations and income tax changes that mostly benefit the wealthy, leaving little to invest in critical education needs. Delegates also included $140 million less in direct aid to schools than Gov. Youngkin put in his December budget, even though we now know the error in the calculation tool released for school divisions had an error overestimating state support to localities by $201 million. Assurances were made that divisions would not lose the funding they were projected to receive because of this mistake, but the House budget doesn’t accomplish this.
The House budget does make some measured investments in education, including increasing middle school reading specialists and a handful of other relatively small-scale expenditures that don’t meaningfully address learning loss or staffing shortages. Their budget also continues to include wasteful spending to expand unproven, experimental laboratory schools.
The House and Senate budgets couldn’t be much further apart on education. We’ll be monitoring the process as it moves ahead and providing advocacy opportunities for our members.