Governor makes budget proposals

Published 10:36 pm Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has been unveiling proposals for the state budget, and two proposals included improvements for teacher salaries and school safety.

Northam announced that his budget proposal would include a $268.7 million investment into K-12 education. About $88 million of the investment will add an additional 2-percent raise for teacher salaries, and that will result in a total of a 5-percent raise effective July, 1, 2019.

Northam knows that a raise will help incentivize teachers to stay in the state — and in their career.

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“Every child in the Commonwealth should have access to a world-class education — that can’t happen if Virginia is unable to compete with other states on attracting and retaining the best teaching talent,” Northam said in a press release. “Raising teacher pay is one step to securing the quality of our K-12 education system for years to come.”

Along with his proposal to increase teacher pay, Northam announced allocating almost $70 million to increase the supplemental lottery per-pupil allocation and the at-risk add-on allocation. The money will be split evenly between both programs.

The governor has also proposed a one-time deposit of $80 million for the literary fund. The fund, despite its name, provides air to local school divisions for school construction.

“It is very encouraging to see the governor’s support and commitment to public education in his proposal. Increasing teachers’ and staff salaries will be a top priority in our budget for the upcoming year,” Suffolk Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney said in email.

An additional $39 million will be invested to fund additional school counselors across the state.

“Virginia is a nationally-recognized leader on school safety, but creating a safe learning environment means ensuring all of our students receive proper supports, including access to mental health professionals,” Northam said in a press release. “Virginia’s school counselors play a critical role in creating a positive school climate and engaging with our students — they are an important source of support in the education system, and we need more of them. We can create safer learning environments for Virginia’s students by taking a more holistic approach, and adding school counselors is integral to our success.”

An investment in counselors aims to help decrease the number of self-harm threat assessments received in public schools.

According to the governor’s office, 9,328 threat assessments were reported in 2017, and half of them were threats of harm to self.

“This budget proposal is very encouraging to see. Additional school counselors will certainly be helpful to address the variety of students’ needs,” Whitney said in an email. “The more wraparound services we can provide our students, the better we can serve them.”

Northam addressed the Joint Money Committees on Tuesday to share proposed amendments to the 2018-2020 biennial budget.