Virginia Board of Education Prescribes New Standards of Quality and Reviews New Rebenchmarking Figures for the 2022-2024 Biennium

NOTE: This article was provided to the CVT by the Virginia Association of Counties.

On October 20 and 21, the Virginia Board of Education (VBOE) met to finalize its revisions to the Standards of Quality (SOQs), which set minimum requirements that must be met by all local school divisions for K-12 education in Virginia. The Board voted to prescribe the revised SOQs to the Governor and General Assembly. The Board also received a presentation on rebenchmarking figures that impact the total cost of Direct Aid to Education formulas, affecting both state cost and the required local share that localities must fund for the SOQs and other Direct Aid programs.

The final set of 2021 SOQ prescriptions, built upon the Board’s work during the 2019 review cycle, contains the following items and estimated state fiscal impact:

  • Enhanced At-Risk Add-On (estimated cost of $74M in FY22): Consolidates the current At-Risk Add-On as well as the Prevention, Intervention, and Remediation programs into a single, expanded fund. Also includes language directing school boards to equitably distribute experienced, effective teachers and other personnel among all of its schools, and a prohibition on clustering ineffective teachers in any school or group of schools.
  • Teacher Leader and Mentor Programs (estimated cost of $113.9M in FY22): Establishes a new Teacher Leader program and expands Teacher Mentor program.
  • Reading Specialists (estimated cost of $37.8M in FY22): Sets a minimum staffing ratio for reading specialists in K-5 determined by the number of students failing third-grade Standards of Learning reading assessments.
  • English Learner Teachers (estimated cost of $15M in FY22): Sets a scaled staffing ratio that takes into account the different proficiency level of students and accordingly, the degree of instructional staff required to support these students.
  • Principal Mentorship (estimated cost of $1.2M in FY22): Establishes a statewide principal mentorship program.
  • Work-Based Learning Coordinators (estimated cost of $7.8M in FY22): Uses a regional coordinator model for supporting work-based learning at the local-level and the implementation of the Profile of a Virginia Graduate.
  • Elementary School Principals (estimated cost of $7.8 in FY22): Requires that a full-time principal should be provided for every elementary school, regardless of size.
  • Assistant Principals (estimated cost of $76.6 in FY22): Sets a ratio of one full-time assistant principal for each 400 students.
  • Class Size Reduction and Experienced Teachers for K-3 (no state impact estimated): Moves K-3 class size reduction program from the Appropriation Act to the SOQ.
  • Specialized Student Support Personnel (estimated cost of $48.8M in FY22): Establishes a new position category including school nurses, social worker, psychologist, and other licensed health and behavioral positions and sets a ratio of 4 specialized student support personnel per 1,000 students.
  • School Counselors (estimated cost of $52.4M in FY22): Sets a ratio of 1 school counselor per 250 students.

As previously reported, VBOE reviews the SOQs every two years and typically submits their recommendations for consideration by the General Assembly in September or October as mandated by Article VIII, Section 2 of the Constitution of Virginia. The SOQs have wide ranging fiscal impacts to localities as they determine a variety of factors, including school staffing ratios, distribution of state aid, and other requirements for public education. However, regardless of VBOE’s prescriptions, the SOQs have been codified by the General Assembly and any changes would require changes to the code. Given the fiscal impact of the prescribed SOQs and the existing Standards outlined in Code, the practical implications of VBOE’s actions remain unclear.

In addition to discussion of the SOQs, Virginia Department of Education staff gave a presentation to VBOE on the latest estimates for the Rebenchmarking of the Direct Aid to Public Education Budget for the 2022-2024 Biennium. The rebenchmarked budget represents the state cost of continuing the current Direct Aid programs into the next biennium, with updates to the input data used in the funding formulas that determine the cost of the programs. This technical process occurs every two years and incorporates the latest data to reflect changes in enrollment, salaries, support costs, inflation, and other factors. This process impacts localities as it helps determine required local effort.

The initial estimated state cost of rebenchmarking for the upcoming biennium is stated to be $331.0 million. Local governments should note that the calculation of this figure relies on No Loss (hold harmless) funding maintained in the 2022-2024 base figures as well the omission of FY 2021 enrollment data from projected growth rates. This deviation of normal practice was done to account for the unusual circumstances concerning K-12 education during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Without these provisions, the estimated amount of state funding needed for rebenchmarking would be a mere fraction of the current calculated amount and could have significant negative fiscal impacts.

The final rebenchmarking figures will be completed this fall and included in the Governor’s 2022-2024 introduced budget released in December. More data is pending regarding the revised composite index for the 2022-2024 biennium, additional revisions to enrollment projections, revised Sales Tax and Lottery revenue projections, and revised VRS fringe benefit rates. VACo will closely monitor the final proposed rebenchmarking figures and share with our members once they become available.

VACo Contact:  Jeremy R. Bennett

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