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Underfunded Education: The Crisis We Can't Ignore

Preparing for the 2024 General Assembly: Public Education Priorities

The verdict is in. Not only is Virginia seriously underfunding its public schools, but the pipeline for K-12 teachers has proven to be inadequate. A recent nonpartisan study of school funding has confirmed just how badly Virginia public schools are underfunded, and a review of the K-12 teacher pipeline revealed the reasons why we have a shortage of qualified teachers in Virginia. Now that we know the facts, local governments want things to change.

These reports by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) were produced at the direction of bill SJ294 that was passed in 2021 to review the funding formula, and at the direction of the JLARC administration in 2022 to review the teacher pipeline. JLARC is authorized by the Code of Virginia to conduct program evaluation, policy analysis, and oversight of state agencies on behalf of the Virginia General Assembly. JLARC recommendations can have a high impact but it is up to our legislators whether the recommendations become bills and eventually law. In recent years only about three-quarters of the recommendations have been implemented by the General Assembly.

The Commonwealth is underfunding Virginia’s public schools by billions of dollars because the formula that determines funding “needs to be significantly improved and modernized.” As per usual, Governor Youngkin blamed the underfunding problem on previous administrations, but Senator Ghazala Hashmi responded that it was:

Unfair to criticize the previous two administrations given the fact that the democratic governors worked with Republican majorities in both Chambers, and these Republican majorities consistently blocked measures to fund public education at the levels needed. In 2020, when Democrats had the first opportunity to make historic changes to the public education budget, significant funding was introduced but sadly had to be put on pause because of the unexpected and uncertain economic future facing us all with the global spread of the coronavirus.

Regardless of where the blame lies, it is clear that the way Virginia funds public schools needs to be fixed. The JLARC report provides details and a gameplan that legislators can use to develop legislation that would improve school funding. The main findings of the study are provided in the drop down below, and JLARC’s proposed recommendations to appropriately fund schools can be found here.

JLARC Main Findings regarding the Funding Formula

The second JLARC review reported that, “Having enough, high quality teachers is among the most important factors necessary for a quality education system” and that the current pipeline for qualified K–12 teachers is not adequate. The main findings of the study are provided in the drop down below, and JLARC recommendations for improving Virginia’s pipeline for qualified teachers can be found here.

JLARC Main Findings regarding the Teacher Shortage

4 Public Education, in collaboration with Fund Our Schools and the Virginia Grassroots Coalition, offers what they consider priorities for Virginia’s legislators to develop into bills. Each priority is taken from the JLARC recommendations. The priorities are provided in this drop down.

Our education priorities for the 2024 General Assembly

This blog has also been published in Dogwood--see below.


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