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Seven Democrats debate in South Carolina. And helping kelp forests off the West coast.

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Tonight's the last debate before the South Carolina primaries, but it's also the last before Super Tuesday, which includes California and its 494 delegates.

VA's Historic Education Budget Gets an 'F' for Teacher Pay

Virginia Gov. Northam's education budget proposal includes a teacher pay hike that falls below the level of inflation. (Adobe Stock)
Virginia Gov. Northam's education budget proposal includes a teacher pay hike that falls below the level of inflation. (Adobe Stock)
December 20, 2019

RICHMOND, Va. - Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam's K-12 education budget proposal is being hailed by officials as an unprecedented billion-dollar investment in the state's public schools. But teachers' groups say the proposal falls far short of what's desperately needed.

Cheryl Gibbs Binkley, a founding member of Virginia Educators United, points out that the budget includes only a 3% raise over the next two years for teachers and staff. She thinks it sends the message that educators aren't important enough to receive average pay.

"The inflation rate for the last couple of years comes to 3.9% for two years," says Binkley. "So, teachers will be working for a minus 0.9% pay cut."

State officials say the historic budget includes bold changes that reaffirm Virginia's ongoing commitment to educational equity in its public school system.

The governor hopes this funding infusion will bring money for education back to pre-Recession levels. The budget plan includes more support for at-risk students and almost $100 million to increase the number of counselors in schools.

But Binkley says it barely compensates for the massive budget cuts since 2008, which were justified as a belt-tightening measure that doesn't apply today.

"The 2008 Recession has been used as the stated reason for under-funding the schools," says Binkley. "But the state economy has been booming since shortly after 2008."

She says the proposal totals nearly $550 million more than the $800 million increase required by law. But she points out that the Virginia school system lost more than $400 million per year over the past 10 years.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - VA