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Northam budget includes $1.2B investment in K-12 education

Photo Credit: niroworld/Adobe Stock

Gov. Ralph Northam’s $1.2 billion proposed investment in K-12 education includes the single-largest increase for at-risk schools in Virginia history, a 3 percent salary increase for teachers, funds for more school counselors and new staff supports for English language learners, and significant new funds available for local divisions.

“Students deserve quality public schools, no matter where they live,” Northam said. “This budget provides extra funding to help close the achievement gap in high-need schools, especially in urban and rural Virginia. Every child should have access to a world-class education, and this budget advances that commitment.”

Academic achievement gaps are persistent and growing in Virginia, for students of color, economically disadvantaged students, and students with disabilities. Forty percent of Virginia’s public pre-K-12 students are economically disadvantaged, and 13 percent are learning English, according to Fall 2019 reports on student demographics.

Teacher recruitment and retention also remain pressing challenges for the state.

“This historic budget reaffirms our clear and ongoing commitment to educational equity our public education system,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “These bold changes will dramatically increase supports for educationally at-risk learners, help us recruit and retain the best teachers, and help school divisions serve the unique needs of their students.”

Budget highlights include:

  • Flexible Supports for Educationally At-Risk Students: $140.4 million to increase the “At-Risk Add-On” for educationally at-risk students. This is the largest single increase to this funding source in Virginia’s history
  • Teacher Raise: $145.1 million for a 3 percent salary increase in the second year, for funded Standards of Quality instructional and support positions
  • Flexible Per-Pupil Allocation: $125 million in new flexible funds for local divisions
  • Additional School Counselors: $99.3 million to increase the number of counselors at every grade level
  • Instructional Support for English Language Learners: $27.6 million to increase the number of instructional positions
  • School Meals: $10.6 million to help cover the cost of school breakfast and lunch for families who qualify for reduced meal pricing
  • Rebenchmarking and Routine Updates: $808.5 million for formula-driven enrollment and program updates.

“When we prioritize the social-emotional needs of our students, we enable them to succeed both inside and outside the classroom,” said Lyons Sanchezconcha, an educator at Huguenot High School. “Gov. Northam’s proposed investment will help educators better support our most vulnerable students and close achievement gaps around the Commonwealth.

“Virginia’s teachers are the foundation of our education system,” said Dr. James Lane, State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “By providing both a raise and additional personnel to support English language learners, we are ensuring we can recruit and retain the best talent and provide the unique supports students need to succeed.”

Last week, Northam announced an additional $94.8 million to expand access to and support the quality of early care and learning programs for at-risk 3- and 4-year-olds. The governor also announced a $145 million proposal to make tuition-free community college available to low- and middle-income students who pursue jobs in high-demand fields.

Watch the video of today’s announcement here.

augusta free press
augusta free press