RD599 - 2020 Annual Report on the Condition and Needs of Public Schools in Virginia – December 1, 2020

Executive Summary:

The Board of Education reaffirms the priorities and goals outlined in its comprehensive plan, adopted November 2017. The priorities outlined in the comprehensive plan are to:

• Provide high-quality, effective learning environments for all students;

• Advance policies that increase the number of candidates entering the teaching profession and encourage and support the recruitment, development, and retention of well-prepared and skilled teachers and school leaders;

• Ensure successful implementation of the Profile of a Virginia Graduate and the accountability system for school quality as embodied in the revisions to the Standards of Accreditation.

As outlined below, 2020 has been an extraordinary year for public education in Virginia due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has placed huge demands on our schools, students, and parents. The pandemic has highlighted areas of need for Virginia’s public education system to ensure equity of opportunity for all students. As school divisions pivoted to support students through multiple instructional methods including hybrid and virtual formats, four factors had a large impact on consistent, effective implementation of quality instruction:

• lack of broadband infrastructure and access for all students;

• lack of devices for each student to access virtual instruction;

• lack of capacity of school divisions and professional development for educators to support the shift to virtual teaching and learning; and

• the inadequacy of a virtual format to meet many students’ needs, particularly students with special needs and younger students.

It is anticipated that the challenges and uncertainty facing local school divisions will continue long after the pandemic ends, including budgetary impacts from enrollment loss and potential impacts on state and local funding sources. Since public education funding is largely allocated based on a per-pupil basis, enrollment declines are expected to negatively impact local school division budgets. The long-term impact of the enrollment loss is not yet known but will have a sizable impact on the state budget and local school division budgets.

The pandemic has not changed the fundamental challenges facing Virginia’s public education system, except to the extent that it has highlighted additional inequities and potentially delayed progress in addressing them. The Board asserts that the following conclusions remain true of Virginia’s public education system:

• By many national and state measures, Virginia’s public schools, students, and educators continue to improve and lead the way in academic achievement and accountability. However, persistent achievement gaps remain for certain student groups.

• Virginia schools continue to be underfunded. According to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission’s report Virginia Compared to the Other States: 2020 Edition, Virginia ranks 26th of 50 for state and local per pupil funding for Pre K-12 education, and 40th of 50 for state per pupil funding. Even when adjusting for inflation, state per pupil support for K-12 education as not been restored to pre-recessionary levels more than 10 years after the end of the Great Recession.(*1)

• Nationally, Virginia ranked 33rd for average salary of public K-12 teachers, based on 2018-2019 salary data.(*2)

• Student enrollment continues to increase with over 53,000 additional students in public schools over the past 10 years, and the number of economically disadvantaged students has risen sharply. From 2009-2010 to 2019-2020, the number of students considered economically disadvantaged has increased by over 107,000 students, many requiring more support and services. It is anticipated that there will be short-term drop in enrollment due to the pandemic, however, it is expected to be temporary.

• Schools and school divisions with the highest levels of poverty are hit the hardest when state funding lags or cuts are made. For Fiscal Year 2019, Virginia localities invested $4.1 billion above the required local effort to fund the Standards of Quality. However, not all localities have the capacity to provide additional investments. High-poverty communities rely more heavily on state resources and cannot make up the differences due to less local resources.(*3)

• Virginia continues to face a shortage of quality educators entering and remaining in the classroom. It is anticipated that the COVID-19 pandemic will have an impact on the shortage. The number of unfilled positions increased from 440 during the 2010-2011 school year to a height of 1,081 in the 2016-2017 school year, then dropped slightly in the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school year. In the 2019-2020 school year, the number of unfilled positions stood at 1,063. The percent of provisionally licensed and inexperienced teachers has climbed similarly.

• For the past nine years in Virginia, teacher turnover rates have been above ten percent. While the specific reasons for departure are not collected, nationally we know that the major reasons for teacher turnover include lack of administrative support, poor teaching conditions, the pressures of accountability systems and low salaries compared to other similarly educated professions.

• The pandemic has caused additional financial distress for local school division, only partly offset by existing pandemic relief funds. This distress could have long-term implications for educational outcomes in Virginia.
(*1) Goren, L., Mejia, F., Duncombe, C., & Wodicka, C. (2020, August). Budget Choices for Today and Tomorrow: Learning Lessons from the Great Recession and Setting Virginia on a More Equitable Path https://www.thecommonwealthinstitute.org/2020/08/14/budget-choices-for-today-and-tomorrow-learning-lessons-from-the-great-recession-and-setting-virginia-on-a-more-equitable-path/
(*2) National Education Association, (2020) Rankings of the States 2019 and Estimates of the States 2020. Washington, DC.
(*3) Ibid