Needed funding for public schools

Published 4:52 pm Tuesday, February 22, 2022

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In this era of bitter partisan divide in Richmond, moments of consensus on important priorities should be celebrated.

This is especially true in the realm of public schools, which have become a battleground in national debates over racial justice and gender identity. Some of the angriest voices have suggested that parents abandon public schools entirely, and even that legislators use the threat of defunding as the stick for rooting out divisive instruction in the classroom.

Quite the opposite is happening. Gov. Glenn Youngkin and legislative leadership in both parties are proposing historic investments in school construction and teacher pay, both sorely needed if Virginia is to remain competitive with other states in educating tomorrow’s workforce.

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Some details will need to be negotiated in the weeks ahead, but significant funding for both school construction and teacher pay raises appears certain.

House Republicans, who form the majority in that chamber, have proposed $2 billion over the next two years for a school construction loan rebate program that would cover the cost of 80 new school buildings statewide. That’s four times more than even former Gov. Ralph Northam included in his two-year budget proposal in December.

House Republicans also have recommended 4% salary increases for teachers and staff each of the next two years, plus a 1% bonus. Northam’s proposal, favored in the Democratic-controlled Senate, calls for 5% raises each year.

Youngkin is on board with both school construction funding and teacher pay raises, which would help close a current wide gap between what Virginia K-12 teachers earn and the national average.

Debates over equity and inclusion will surely continue, but on more important priorities, both parties have sent clear signals that they are more committed than ever to first-rate public schools. We applaud them.