Public education in Virginia

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The Virginia public school system (prekindergarten-grade 12) operates within districts governed by locally elected school boards members and superintendents. Virginia has 134 school divisions.

The Virginia state constitution requires that the state legislature "provide for a system of free public elementary and secondary schools for all children of school age throughout the Commonwealth, and shall seek to ensure that an educational program of high quality is established and continually maintained."[1]

School revenues, expenditures and budget

See also: Virginia state budget
Virginia's education costs are 39% of the state budget

For the 2008-2010 biennium, the total state budget is $74.8 billion, education accounts for 39.4%, $29.5 billion, of the total budget.[2] According to 2009 revenue forecasts the state of Virginia is expected to reach a $2.9 billion revenue shortfall for 2009-2010.[3] This is an increase of nearly $400 million from similar projections back in October of 2008, and $100 million more than projections from two weeks prior to the Governor's December 17th 2008 Revenue Projection. [4] Governor Tim Kaine reports that this revenue shortfall will be the result of adjustments of $138.6 million for the fiscal year 2009, and $229.6 million for 2010.

  • In September 2009 the governor announced that he plans to eliminate 929 jobs (593 through layoffs) and close three correctional facilities. Additionally Gov. Kaine plans to cut 15% in aid to colleges and universities. The budget cuts come in light of a current $1.5 billion budget shortfall. Cuts to K-12 education have been limited, according to state officials, and will not suffer the brunt of the cuts.[5]

The cost per pupil is $10,659, ranking 17th highest the nation according the Census Bureau 2007-2008 report.[6]

Personnel salaries

The average classroom teacher salary for FY 2009 is $51,902, a 2.75% increase compared to FY 2008. The average principal salary for FY 2009 is $92,174, a 3.56% increase compared to FY 2008.[7]

Virginia is expected to collect $249.5 million from the Educations Jobs Fund, to fund teach salaries.[8]

School year Average annual teacher salary Average annual principal salary
2008-2009 $51,902[7] $92,174[7]
2007-2008 $50,633[9] $90,045[9]
2006-2007 $49,252[10] $86,409[10]
2005-2006 $47,310[11] $83,493[11]
2004-2005 $46,034[12] $81,053[12]
2003-2004 $44,628[13] $78,198[13]
2002-2003 $43,152[14] $75,079[14]
2001-2002 $41,962[15] $73,175[15]

In 2010 school districts agreed to lower contributions to teacher pensions from 16.5 percent of each teacher’s salary to 8.93 percent in 2011 and then 10.16 percent in 2012.[16] For Fairfax County, Virginia this means a decrease of $85 million in contributions.[16] Some schools have expressed concerns about how this will impact pensions in the long run.[16]

Role of unions

The main union related to the Virginia school system is the Virginia Education Association (VEA), an affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA). For the 2003 tax period VEA had: $12.7 million in total revenue, $13.4 in total expenses and $10.6 million in total assets.[17]

List of local Virginia school unions:[18]

Role of school boards

The State Board of Education consists of nine members, all of which are appointed by the governor. All appointed members are confirmed by the Virginia General Assembly. Board members serve a term of four years and are limited to two consecutive terms. The state school board is responsible for establishing curriculum standards, high school graduation requirements, testing and assessment programs, teacher qualifications, rules and regulations for administration of state programs and standards for teacher accreditation. Additionally, the school board is responsible for implementing the No Child Left Behind Act.[19]

Taxpayer-funded lobbying

See also: Virginia government sector lobbying

The main education government sector lobbying organization is the Virginia School Boards Association. The government sector lobbying organization for school personnel is the Virginia Association of School Personnel Administrators.


Virginia currently has partial spending transparency through its website, Commonwealth Data Point. In 2009 the state legislature passed two transparency bills, Senate Bill 936 and House Bill 2285.[20] SB 936 and HB 2285 creates a searchable database website containing information on state revenues, appropriations and expenditures.[21]


A 2009 study, Leaders and Laggards, conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for a Competitive Workplace, Frederick M. Hess of the conservative American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, and the Center for American Progress, gave Virginia: "B" in academic achievement; "D" in truth in advertising about student proficiency; "B" in rigor of standards; "A" in post-secondary and workforce readiness; "A" in for its teacher workforce policies; "C" in data quality.[22]


  • In 2009 Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Dale announced that the district had seen impressive gains in test scores among special education and limited English proficiency students. However, a closer look at district statistics revealed that although the districts number of special education and limited English students moving forward, the superintendent's statistics revealed a higher number of administered tests. Additional discrepancies arose when regarding 2009's mandated English test scores.[23]

Academic performance

The chart below details the number of schools that made and did not make the (Adequate Yearly Progress) AYP for school years 2008-2009. AYP is used by the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program to determine the academic performance of schools. In the 2008-2009 school year Virginia had a total of 1,853 schools, of which 71% met AYP requirements and 28% did not meet AYP requirements.[24]

Schools Making AYP (%) Schools Not Making AYP (%) Total
Schools 1,323 71% 524 28% 1,853
Divisions 60 45% 72 55% 132

State Budget Solutions’ Education Study: “Throwing Money At Education Isn’t Working”

State Budget Solutions’ examined national trends in education from 2009-2011, including state-by-state analysis of education spending, graduation rates, and average ACT scores. The study shows that states that spend the most do not have the highest average ACT test scores, nor do they have the highest average graduation rates. A summary of the study is available here. Download the full report here: Throwing Money At Education Isn’t Working.

See National Chart to compare data from all 50 states.

State Spending on Education vs. Academic Performance 2012

State 2011 Total Spending[25] 2011 Education Spending[26] 2011 Percent Education Spending 2012 Total Spending[27] 2012 Education Spending[28] 2012 Percent Education Spending 2010 Avg. ACT score[29] 2011 Avg. ACT score[30] 2012 Avg. ACT score[31] 2010 Graduation Rate[32] 2011 Graduation Rate[33]
Virginia $67.8 billion $23.1billion 34.0% $69.1 billion $24.1 billion 34.8% 22.3 22.3 22.4 75.5% 77.0%

School choice

School choice options include:

  • Charter schools: the state of Virginia has a total of three public charter schools. A fourth charter school is scheduled to open in July 2010.[34] Charter school legislation was first enacted in the state in 1999 and was later amended in 2002 and 2004.[35]
  • Public school open enrollment: Virginia does not support private school choice and does not have an open enrollment policy.[36]
  • Online learning: the state of Virgina offers online learning via a state-led program, the Virginia Virtual Advanced Placement School(VVAPS), which offers Advanced Placement and foreign language courses to students.[37]

External links

Additional reading


  1. Virginia State Constitution,"Article VIII, Section I," retrieved September 30, 2009
  2. Virginia Department of Planning and Budget,"Budget FAQs," July 8, 2009
  3. Official Site of the Governor of Virginia, 'Governor Kaine Announces Revenue Reforecast, Plan to Address Shortfall,' December 17, 2008
  4. The Virginian-Pilot, Virginia's budget shortfall forecast approaching $2.8B, December 3, 2008
  5. Washington Post,"Va. to Cut 929 Jobs To Ease Shortfall," September 9, 2009
  6. Maine Watchdog, Education Spending Per Child, July 6, 2010
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Virginia Department of Education,"2008-2009 Teacher Salary Survey Report," retrieved September 30, 2009
  8. Watchdog, Virginia schools fund salaries with one-time dollars, Aug. 26, 2010
  9. 9.0 9.1 Virginia Department of Education,"2007-2008 Teacher Salary Survey Report," retrieved September 30, 2009
  10. 10.0 10.1 Virginia Department of Education,"2006-2007 Teacher Salary Survey Report," retrieved September 30, 2009
  11. 11.0 11.1 Virginia Department of Education,"2005-2006 Teacher Salary Survey Report," retrieved October 1, 2009
  12. 12.0 12.1 Virginia Department of Education,"2004-2005 Teacher Salary Survey Report," retrieved October 1, 2009
  13. 13.0 13.1 Virginia Department of Education,"2003-2004 Teacher Salary Survey Report," retrieved October 1, 2009
  14. 14.0 14.1 Virginia Department of Education,"2002-2003 Teacher Salary Survey Report," retrieved October 1, 2009
  15. 15.0 15.1 Virginia Department of Education,"2001-2002 Teacher Salary Survey Report," retrieved October 1, 2009
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Watchdog, Virginia pension deferments coming back to bite schools, Sept. 7, 2010
  17. Center for Union Facts,"Virginia Education Association," retrieved September 30, 2009
  18. Center for Union Facts,"Virginia teachers unions," retrieved September 30, 2009
  19. Virginia Department of Education,"School Boards," retrieved September 30, 2009
  20. Tertium Quids, "Transparency Bills Pass Senate, House," February 25, 2009
  21. Virginia General Assembly Legislative Tracking
  22. U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute,"Virginia Education Report Card," retrieved November 17, 2009
  23. Washington Examiner,"Barbara Hollingsworth: Fairfax public schools officials cheat on test scores," September 22, 2009
  24. Virginia Department of Education,"Virginia Statewide Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP):2009-2010 Ratings Based on 2008-2009 Achievement," August 31, 2009
  25. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Total Spending" Aug. 4, 2012
  26. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Education Spending"Aug. 4, 2012
  27. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Total Spending" Aug. 4, 2012
  28. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Education Spending"Aug. 4, 2012
  29. 2010 ACT National and State Scores "Average Scores by State"
  30. [ 2011 ACT National and State Scores " Average Scores by State"]
  31. [ 2011 ACT National and State Scores " Average Scores by State"]
  32. National Center for Education Statistics
  33. National Center for Education Statistics
  34. Virginia Department of Education,"Public Charter Schools in Virginia," retrieved September 30, 2009
  35. Virginia Department of Education,"Code of Virginia Sections Relating to Public Charter Schools," August 12, 2004
  36. Education Commission of the States," Open Enrollment: 50-State Report," retrieved September 30, 2009
  37. Virtual Virginia,"About Us," retrieved September 30, 2009