Fully funding Virginia public schools will cost $1 billion more per year. Can Democrats deliver on a campaign promise to do that?

Fully funding Virginia public schools will cost $1 billion more per year. Can Democrats deliver on a campaign promise to do that?
Officials in Richmond proposed pairing Fox Elementary School in Richmond with a nearby majority black school to increase the diversity of both student bodies. (Source: Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

In some competitive races around the state, Democratic candidates are promising to restore funding for public schools.

But it’s not a small — or cheap — task.

Last week, the state Board of Education recommended new standards for public schools that would require close to a billion more dollars a year if lawmakers chose to fully fund those standards. Which means if Democratic candidates are serious about delivering on their promise to fully fund education, they’ll have to find that money in the state budget.

Educators in some of the most competitive General Assembly races have a range of ideas on how to better fund education, from vague commitments to redirecting some state revenue streams back into the classroom.

“The answer is simple: A budget is a set of priorities and properly funding our children’s schools should be at the top of our list of priorities. I am focused on investing in education so that we ensure that all children are given a fair shot, regardless of their zip code,” said Ghazala Hashmi, a Democrat challenging Republican Sen. Glen Sturtevant in a district that includes part of the city of Richmond and its southern suburbs. Hashmi is the director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College.

Virginia decreased education funding during the Great Recession, a decision that impacted most facets of public schools, from staffing levels to maintenance schedules. Money hasn’t been restored to pre-recession levels and many funding metrics, like teacher salaries and money for specialized instructors in Virginia schools, have fallen below the national average.

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