16,000+ Students, But 600+ Fewer Staff: That’s The Reality In Virginia Schools

Photo by mouad bouallayel on Unsplash

By Amie Knowles

August 31, 2022

Everything from budgets to enrollment impacts Virginia’s K-12 schools.

Oh, the fun of funding. The fate of Virginia’s budget hung in the balance until June 21 when Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican (finally) signed it.

The tardiness in approving the commonwealth’s funding framework created issues for schools, many of which across the commonwealth had already departed for summer break — and whose fiscal year loomed within single digits.

Recent information compiled by The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis (TCI) shows how everything from budgets to enrollment impacts Virginia’s K-12 schools. 

School Budget

In Virginia, there’s a state-mandated base line on local expenditures for school divisions. Across the entirety of the commonwealth, that number was $3.9 billion, according to the most recent data.

However, localities aren’t bound to stop at the minimum. Some divisions go above and beyond the requirements. Actual local expenditures totaled $8.1 billion — that’s more than double the required amount. 

In a media release, TCI expressed that funding varied across the commonwealth. While some divisions put forward more than double the amount necessary, others like those in some rural school divisions, designated 65% more than what was required. Still others — like divisions in Petersburg and Tazewell, which face some of the highest poverty rates — added less than 10% to the minimum.

Compared to the 2008-09 school year, only federal funding increased. The amount was up about 3%, totaling 9.5% in 2020-21. Both local and state funding decreased over the 12-year period, with the state share dropping from close to 45% to 43.5%. The local share decreased from approximately 48.5% to 47%.  

The group also calculated per student funding and noted that the aid decreased by 3.4%, with figures adjusted for inflation, over a dozen years.

“Students in every community, regardless of zip code, deserve access to a great education, and Virginia’s cities and counties are collectively carrying heavy financial burdens to help make that happen. Despite recent increases in Virginia’s budget for K-12 education, state support still falls far short of what the Virginia Board of Education says is needed to fully fund our schools,” Ashley Kenneth, president and CEO of TCI, said in a statement. “This has direct and lasting consequences for students, particularly for high-poverty school divisions in Virginia. We need state policy makers to support all of our students.”  

Return To Class

 In 2020-21, Virginia schools saw a 16,000+ student increase compared to a dozen years prior. What the commonwealth didn’t see was an equally proportionate amount of school staff in the profession. However, that number didn’t specifically relate to teachers.

TCI found that over the 12-year span there were:

  • 3,600+ fewer support staff
  • 1,300+ more teachers and instructors
  • 380+ more school counselors and librarians 
  • 950+ more teacher aides
  • 280+ more principals and assistant principals 

While there were numeric gains in most areas, the comparison came down to the number of students who also entered schools: a whopping 16,000+, compared to an overall 600+ fewer staff members. 

The group also compared additional characteristics of Virginia students over the 12-year period, which showcased positive trends including reductions in school-age children living in poverty and increases in the number of English learners, students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and students eligible for Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA) services. 

  • Amie Knowles

    Amie is Dogwood's community editor. She has been in journalism for several years, winning multiple awards from the Virginia Press Association for news and features content. A lifelong Virginia resident, her work has appeared in the Martinsville Bulletin, Danville Register & Bee and NWNC Magazine.

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