Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday announced in a statement from his office that his upcoming proposed budget will include $268.7 million in new money for Virginia’s K-12 education system.
“Altogether, the budget proposals reflect the governor’s commitment to ensuring every Virginia student, no matter who they are or where they live, has the same access to a quality education,” according to the statement.
The proposed budget includes an additional two percent raise in teachers salaries, which would total $88 million, according to the statement.
In addition to the increase in teacher pay, Northam said in a prepared statement that his proposed budget will adjust funding to reflect an estimated increase in Virginia Lottery proceeds, allocating $70 million to increase the at-risk add-on, which targets state support to schools with the highest concentration of students eligible for free lunch to provide dropout prevention. Northam also said the supplemental lottery per pupil allocation, a flexible funding pool, will get a boost.
The office also revealed his proposed budget would also add an $80 million one-time deposit into the Literary Fund, a long-standing method of providing aid to local school divisions for school construction, according to the statement.
Last week, before touring North Fork Middle School, Northam said the state needed to support its schools with additional funding. Northam said the state needed to pay teachers more to retain or entice the brightest and most experienced teachers. He also said the state has crumbling and outdated school buildings which need to be addressed.
Area school officials said they will want to see more details, which should be released Dec. 18 when Northam addresses the General Assembly’s joint money committees.
They also pointed out they are encouraged by the governor’s proposed budget but it must be approved by the Virginia House and Senate, which will have their own ideas and proposals that will be reflected in the final state budget.
“We are thrilled that Gov. Northam understands the challenges faced in school divisions for: remaining competitive in times of teacher shortages; additional supports needed to support at-risk students to include initiatives to address social-emotional learning and mental health; and recognizing the need to continue to invest in our buildings and infrastructure. For the first time in a long time, it appears that the School Board, Board of Supervisors, and now State Officials, are working together to address investments in public education. I am hopeful that the Virginia Legislators understand the importance of these investments for Virginia’s education and economic viability,” Shenandoah County Public Schools Superintendent Mark Johnston said in an email.
Frederick County Schools spokesman Steve Edwards his colleagues are encouraged by the proposed teacher salary increases.
The pay increase will help either retain or attract quality teachers into the schools, he said.
Something else that stood out was the proposal to increase per-pupil allocation, Edwards said.
“That additional funding will be appreciated,” Edwards said.
Warren County Public Schools Superintendent Greg Drescher said any additional state money would be good news.
He also pointed to the teacher salary increase.
“Our School Board’s priority is to work on teacher and staff compensation. This fits right in with that priority. Attracting and keeping quality teachers and staff is the greatest benefit we can give our students,” Drescher said in an email.