Education funding needs prompt attention

A copy of this letter was sent to members of the General Assembly.

May we agree on one thing: “Teaching is the one profession that makes all other professions possible.”

So, if we agree on that, why haven’t you supported restoring Virginia education funding to pre-2008-09 levels? Commonwealth revenues missing then have returned. The economy has rebounded and recent federal tax breaks have brought even more cash.

The Times-Dispatch, Washington Post and a report by The Commonwealth Institute in 2017 indicated the Commonwealth is underfunding Virginia Education by $800 million annually. It is likely worse today.

Funding and staffing formulas put in place by the legislature in 2009 and still in place impact poorer rural districts that disproportionately rely on state funding. They have felt the brunt of the cuts. Many of those affected are in your districts.

There is a “crisis” in education. The Learning Policy Institute found that enrollment nationwide in teacher preparation programs is down 35 percent, which is a decrease of 240,000 new teachers per year. This increases competition for the fewer teachers, who are likely to be lured to those areas with higher salaries.

Compounding the problem, more teachers are leaving the profession due to burnout and low pay. As a result, teaching vacancies have doubled nationwide between 2013 and 2017. CNN notes that 48 states show unfilled openings for math teachers, and 43 states show openings for science teachers.

It is a competitive environment for teaching talents and skills. Just as it is and will be in the future market for our children’s talents and skills. Understaffing, inadequate staffing and underpaid staff risks our next generation will not be trained sufficiently to meet the challenges of our Commonwealth’s future.

So back to our agreed premise, “Teaching is the one profession that makes all other professions possible.”

Delegates and Senators your constituents demand that you adequately fund our schools. As a start, at least restore the funding (corrected for inflation) and correct the staffing formulas implemented in the budget cuts made in 2008-09.

James Knupp

Hartfield

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