State Budget Crash Erodes Educational Gains, Delegation Says

Members of Loudoun’s General Assembly delegation on Monday lamented the budgetary setbacks that will delay a host of educational advances achieved during the recently concluded session in Richmond. 

The economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis will delay many of those efforts, delegates and senators told the Loudoun County School Board during a video conference meeting. The Zoom call was a substitute for the annual meeting with members of the state delegation following the General Assembly session. 

While the state budget adopted a month ago was loaded with funds for teacher raises, support for students from low-income families, money to hire more school counselors, and a commitment to freeze college tuition, many of those initiatives are on hold—or in danger—as state leaders work to understand the economic impact the coronavirus shutdown will have on the commonwealth’s finances. 

Sen. Jill Vogel (R-27), a member of the Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriations, agreed the adopted budget made enormous strides for education and said she was disappointed by the setbacks. Del. David Reid (D-32) pointed out that when the budget was adopted just a few weeks ago, Virginia was running at full employment; today 160,000 small businesses are closed. As a result, state leaders have agreed to put a hold on most new spending. 

The School Board this afternoon is scheduled to get its first detailed briefing on the budgetary impacts of the state funding freeze, as well as the Board of Supervisors’ decision to hold $60 million of local school funding in reserve. The revised revenue projections are expected to leave only enough new funding to accommodate costs associated with enrollment growth, putting plans for employee raises and staffing expansions largely on hold. 

While having little good news about funding, members of the delegation praised the work of Superintendent Eric Williams and his staff for their response to COVID-19 over the past several weeks. Loudoun was the first Virginia school division to close in hopes of slowing the spread of the virus and has emerged as a leader in rolling out distance learning opportunities. 

Del. Wendy Gooditis (D-10), a former teacher, urged parents not to stress about pushing their children with the at-home lessons. It was just important to read to them, she said, and when it is time to put them in front of the TV, try to find something with educational value for them to watch. 

“Hang in there. We are going to get through it. They will be fine and don’t worry about a little bit of screen time,” she said.

School Board member Leslee King (Broad Run) shared that sentiment. “The kids will be fine, but the parents get very anxious.”

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