Two bills that would impact the compensation of K-12 staff positions have been defeated in each body of the legislature. SB 157 (Hashmi) expands on code language added in 2020 that it is the goal of the Commonwealth that public school teachers be compensated at a rate that is competitive in order to attract and keep highly qualified teachers. As defined in code, competitive means at or above the national average teacher salary. The bill would have expanded this goal to include all other individuals employed in Standards of Quality (SOQ) funded positions. It would also have stipulated that pursuant to the general appropriations act, state funding should be provided to fund a five percent annual pay increase for each individual employed in a SOQ-funded position effective from the 2023-24 school year through the 2027-28 school year. Local access to these state funds would be contingent upon matching requirements under each local school boards composite index of local ability to pay (LCI). The bill was continued to 2023 by the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, who also referred the bill to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), which is currently conducting a study of the costs of education. VACo has had conversations with JLARC staff on this issue and stands by ready to provide additional assistance.
HB 535 (Clark) would have removed the aspirational language currently contained in code and would have required the Commonwealth to provide a 4.5 percent annual pay increase for public school teacher salaries effective from the 2023-24 school year through the 2027-28 school year. The House Education K-12 Subcommittee voted 5-3 to lay this bill on the table.
The introduced budget proposal stipulates that the state will provide the state share of up to a 5 percent salary increase effective July 1, 2022, to school divisions that certify to the Department of Education that an equivalent increase will be provided to instructional and support personnel the first year. Sufficient funds are appropriated in this act to finance, on a statewide basis, the state share of up to an additional 5 percent salary increase effective July 1, 2023, to school divisions that certify to the Department of Education that an equivalent increase will be provided to instructional and support personnel the second year. In order to access these funds in FY 2023, a school division must provide at least an average 2.5 percent salary increase the first year. In order to access these funds in FY 2024, a school division must provide at least an average 2.5 percent salary increase the first year and at least an additional average 2.5 percent salary increase the second year.
Under the current K-12 compensation funding formulas, some local governments would face potential costs in excess of $100 million in order to provide the local share of these compensation increases to access the full state funding available. Every school division in Virginia operates above the SOQ allocations of staff and any additional staff above the SOQ formula are funded 100% by the locality. As previously reported, VACo supports voluntary incentives that encourage localities to increase teacher salaries to reflect the national average in compensation, as long as this is done without a required minimum local match. Former VACo President Jeff McKay reiterated this point during the 2021 General Assembly session.
As such, at VACo’s request, the following budget amendments (Item 137 #10h (Watts), Item 137 #2s (Marsden), and Item 137 #8s (Ebbin)) have been introduced to remove the requirement in the introduced budget for school divisions to provide at least an average 2.5 percent salary increase in each year of the biennium in order to access the state share of the 5 percent compensation supplement that is proposed for each year of the biennium. With the removal of this language, school divisions could provide the local share of up to a 5 percent salary increase in each year of the biennium without having to meet a minimum threshold to access the state share. VACo encourages members to advocate to Money Committee members for the inclusion of this language in the House and Senate budget proposals.
The issue of teacher compensation will continue to be discussed as long as Virginia continues to face a shortage of educators entering in and remaining in the Commonwealth’s schools and the average teacher salary lags the national average. As local governments invest approximately $4.4 billion beyond their required local effort and provide the majority (55%) of overall K-12 funding, the General Assembly must provide additional aid on this effort while preserving maximum flexibility for local governments.
VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett