Critical Staff Shortages & Staffing Standards

SchoolEquityStaffing

Virginia's persistent teacher shortage leaves almost 1,000 unfilled teaching positions annually. That's approximately 25,000 students who don't start the school year with a licensed teacher in their classroom. The lack of a high-quality, stable teacher workforce directly impacts student success. The COVID pandemic has exacerbated the teacher shortage as we now see critical shortages of substitute teachers, bus-drivers, custodians and other essential school staff.

Over the past decade the Virginia Board of Education has prescribed staffing standards to support instruction as well as targeted funds for low-income communities and teacher mentor and retention programs. The Standards of Quality (SOQs) establish minimum staffing standards that all Virginia schools must provide, and drives 85% of state funding for local school divisions. The Virginia Board of Education develops and recommends SOQs, and while the Governor may propose changes in the biennium budget, final changes and standards are established by the Virginia General Assembly.

Cuts made by the General Assembly during the 2009 economic downturn instituted a per teacher 'cap’ or formula on the amount of state funding provided by the Commonwealth for vital school support staff. Virginia disproportionately relies on local governments to fund public schools compared to other states, ranking 26th in the nation for per pupil funding when considering the local share of K-12 funding and falling to 41st in the nation when looking at only the state contribution. In FY 2020, all of Virginia's school divisions exceeded the required minimum SOQ staffing levels, spending $4.4 billion above the base requirements set by the state. 

  • Fund the Board of Education's Prescribed Standards of Quality: Virginia PTA urges the General Assembly to modernize the Standards of Quality to reflect the actual staffing practices and those recommended by the Virginia Board of Education.

  • Lift the Support Cap: Virginia PTA urges the General Assembly to lift the 2009 recession-era Support Position Cap & flexibility waivers. For the 2022-2024 biennium, the support position ratio cap decreased from 4.30 support staff per teacher to 4.19 support staff per teacher (4.19:1). Adequate staffing of support positions is a critical component of teacher retention.

  • Increase At Risk Add-On Funds: Virginia PTA additional At Risk Add-On Funding, which provides supplemental funding to school divisions based on their concentrations of students in poverty and additionally works to ensure an equitable distribution of experienced, effective teachers and other personnel across all schools. 

  • Fund Essential Staff: Virginia PTA supports SOQ revisions that would provide essential school staff for every school including full time principals, librarians, technology teachers and nurses.

    • Principals:The daily dedicated leadership and safety oversight that a full-time principal provides is critical to safe learning conditions. Additionally, providing teachers with the instructional support of a principal is a component of addressing teacher retention and the teacher shortage. The fiscal impact to change the principal ratios from part time to full time for elementary schools with less than 300 students is $7.5-7.9 million for FY’22. 

    • Librarians: Nationwide research suggests that important indicators of student success, including graduation rates and mastery of academic standards improve when schools employ certified full-time librarians. Librarians not only provide information management but also establish a culture of literacy and inclusiveness by exposing students to invaluable new perspectives and teaching research skills. Librarians also provide teachers with professional development, support the implementation of new instructional strategies and help teachers embed new resources in instruction. A full-time librarian in schools with less than 300 students will provide students and teachers with daily access to library resources and improve the opportunities of success for vulnerable and at-risk learners, including students of color, low-income students, and students with disabilities.  Fiscal impact to change the librarian ratios from part time to full time for schools with less than 300 students is $5.93 million for FY’22. 

    • Technology Resource Teachers: Technology resource teachers collaborate with teachers and school administration to facilitate the use of technology in classrooms and the school as a whole. COVID-19 has forced a rapid shift to a full reliance on technology and virtual learning to support instruction. Lowering the ratio of technology teachers will support expansion and effective use of technology for both in person and virtual instruction. The fiscal impact on changing the ITRT ratio from 2:1,000 to 2:750 is $13.4 million.

    • School Nurse: There is no staffing standard for school nurses. For the past 27 years Virginia PTA has held the position that every school should be staffed with a Registered Nurse. Per the CDC 25% of students have chronic health concerns and the presence of a school nurse enables students to attend school while being assured access to life-saving medication and health care during the school day. Registered Nurses uniquely support physical, mental and behavioral health concerns -- are essential for infectious disease surveillance, health screenings and immunization compliance. For many children living in or near poverty, the school nurse may be the only health care professional they access regularly.

    • Unified Mental Health Teams

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