Proposed Standards of Quality Changes and Their Fiscal Impact

by James C. Sherlock

Dan Gecker, President, VBOE – picture credit: VBOE

This essay will present the changes proposed to Virginia public school Standards of Quality proposed by the Board of Education and put forward in identical School Equity and Staffing Act bills in the General Assembly.  

They represent very significant change.

I have annotated each change in law in that bill with its estimated FY 2021 fiscal impact on the state budget. 

You will note that localities will have to provide matching funds based upon the current based on each division’s local composite index. The actual fiscal impact to local school divisions is indeterminate at this time.

The two identical bills being vetted in this session are:

  • HB1929 (Aird).  Current status: Reported from Education 21-Y 1-N. In Appropriations.
  • SB1257 (McLellan) Current Status: Referred to Committee on Education and Health; assigned Public Education subcommittee

The bills are based on the Dec 1, 2020 recommendations by the Board of Education. That document can be consulted for background on the recommendations. Dan Gecker (pictured), the Board President, ran for the state senate in 2015 as a Democrat and lost a close race to Glen Sturtevant.

Each provision is annotated below with the state budget implications as estimated by the Department of Education and provided in the Department of Planning and Budget 2021 Fiscal Impact Statement for this legislation. A budget amendment will be necessary.

From that fiscal impact statement: 

Based on HB1800/SB1100 as introduced for the 2021 General Assembly Session, the Department of Education estimates an additional state cost of $462.3 million in the first year to implement the provisions of this bill.

I have to assume that that cost will go up. The VDOE is unlikely to  have estimated the cost of a full year of a system fully operational with these changes implemented when they know that it will start very slowly due to significant transition challenges (see OBSERVATIONS below).

Those challenges include:

Local school divisions would have to provide the local share required to match any additional state funds based on each division’s local composite index. The actual fiscal impact to local school divisions is indeterminate at this time.

proposed Changes to current law

§ 22.1-253.13:1. Standard 1. Instructional programs supporting the Standards of Learning and other educational objectives. 

Changes are:

  • Establish within the Department of Education a unit to facilitate the development of relationships between school divisions and business communities to ensure all high school students will have access to meaningful work experiences such as internships, externships and other work-based learning experiences. +$1,231,677
  • Establish within the Department of Education a unit to develop and implement a statewide mentorship program to support all new principals and principals of schools not meeting the standards established by the Board. +$1,237,677

§ 22.1-253.13:2. Standard 2. Instructional, administrative, and support personnel

The Standards of Quality re-prescribed by the Board of Education on September 17, 2020, include the following changes to Standard 2:

Equity Fund + $61,904,984

Consolidating the At-Risk Add On and Prevention, Intervention, and Remediation funds into a single Equity Fund within the SOQ, which consolidates and expands the At-Risk Add On and Prevention, Intervention, and Remediation funds to distribute resources based on the division-wide free lunch rate.  School divisions would use the funds to (1) provide for additional instructional or specialized student support positions; (2) support programs for students who are educationally at-risk or need prevention, intervention, and remediation; or (3) provide targeted compensation adjustments to assist in recruiting and retaining experienced teachers in high poverty schools.

Equitable distribution of teachers (fiscal impact not separately estimated)

Requiring school boards to equitably distribute experienced, effective teachers and other personnel among all of its schools, avoiding creating concentrations of ineffective teachers in certain schools.

Teacher Leader / Teacher Mentor +$111,370,068

Establishing a new Teacher Leader program, and expanding the existing Teacher Mentor program, whereby additional compensation and additional time is provided during the instructional day for locally-designated staff to serve in leadership and mentorship program roles. 

Teacher leaders support all teachers through peer-level leadership, observation, consultation, and coordination of mentorship programs and professional development. 

Teacher mentors (i) assist new teachers with a successful transition into the teaching profession and (ii) ensure adequate supports are in place for new teachers.  

To support these programs and roles, school boards shall provide full-time equivalent positions based upon the following ratios:

  • One position for every 15 first, second, and third year teachers, or fraction thereof; and 
  • One position for every 50 teachers with four or more years of experience.

School boards shall not utilize these positions to fill teaching positions, or to serve school administrator functions, such as coordination of student discipline or testing.

Instructional staff filling these full-time equivalent positions shall be provided a compensation adjustment of at least 20 percent of the state-recognized statewide prevailing salary.

Every teacher with less than three years of teaching experience shall be assigned a teacher mentor for their first three years of teaching. Such teachers shall be provided one hour of release time from classroom instruction per week to collaborate with their teacher mentor.

K-3 Class Size Reduction (fiscal impact not separately estimated) 

Moving the K-3 Class Size Reduction program into the Standards of Quality, and incorporate flexibility to allow larger class sizes for experienced teachers that are provided compensation adjustments (supplemental pay adjustments).  

The new class size reduction maximum ratios are numerator – percentages of students eligible for federal free lunch; denominator – number of licensed instructional personnel.  The new standards range from 

  • 19 to one in schools with 30 percent or more of students identified as eligible for federal free lunch with no class being larger than 24 students; to
  • 14 to one in schools with 75 percent or more of students identified as eligible for federal free lunch with no class being larger than 19 students; with steps in between.

More English Learner Teachers +$19,679,785

Amending (increasing) the staffing requirements for English Learner teachers to lower the ratio of English language learner students to teachers and differentiate the distribution of positions based upon the proficiency level of students in each school division, while maintaining local flexibility in deploying those positions. 

Early Reading Initiative – More Reading Specialists +$37,912,383

Provides reading specialists positions for students in grades K-5, based upon the number of students failing third-grade Standards of Learning reading assessments, shifting the Early Reading Intervention Program into the SOQ.

Specialized student support personnel +$96,014,831

Create a new staffing category for “specialized student support personnel” in the SOQ, effectively removing the school nurse, school social worker, and school psychologist position from the SOQ support position category, with a ratio of four such staff members for every 1,000 students. For the purposes of this subsection, specialized student support positions and other licensed health and behavioral positions may either be employed by the school division or provided through contracted services.

Principals, APs and Counselors


  • one full time principal in every school. +$7,537,923
  • one full time assistant principal for every 400 (currently 900) students. $74,347,126
  • one full time school counselor for every 250 students (currently one per 375 in elementary, one per 325 in middle and one per 300 in high schools). $51,062,624

§ 22.1-253.13:5. Standard 5. Quality of classroom instruction and educational leadership.

Change – Fiscal impact not separately estimated:

The Board of Education shall establish, and school boards shall provide, teacher leadership and mentorship programs utilizing specially trained public school teachers. The Board shall issue guidelines for teacher leadership and mentorship programs and shall set criteria for beginning and experienced teacher participation, including self-referral, and the qualifications and training of teacher leaders and teacher mentors. Such guidelines shall provide that the programs be administered by local school boards, with the assistance of a local advisory committee made up of teachers, principals, and supervisors.


I am generally in support of many of the ideas in these twin bills, but I see at least three challenges in addition to state funding requirements. 

  • Should the bills be signed into law, filling all of these additional professional positions will challenge every school district, but especially rural districts;
  • The teacher leaders and mentors will come from the ranks of the most experienced classroom teachers, creating a void that is by definition hard to fill; and
  • The local funding match is a wildcard.   

I have no idea whether this legislation will pass and be signed into law this year, but I expect it is coming sooner or later.

I look forward to the analysis of these proposed changes by our readers, especially active and retired school personnel.