Letter — Our children deserve more funding

Published 6:23 pm Friday, November 26, 2021

To the Editor:

On the campaign trail, incoming Governor Glenn Youngkin promised to spend historic amounts of money on public education. According to Youngkin, “We must have the courage to invest in our students, in our teachers, in our facilities, and then we must demand results from our schools.”

In Prince Edward County Public Schools (PECPS), our students, teachers and facilities are in desperate need of investment. The Governor needs to deliver.

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Virginia is wealthy. The commonwealth is among the top 10 states in median household income. However, the state’s investment in students (per pupil) ranks in the bottom 10. Annually, Virginia currently spends around $5,000 per pupil. In order to match the top 10 states in America, Virginia would need to invest an additional $3,000 per student. Our students need this investment.

Research (and common sense) inform us that teachers are the most important factor in student success. PECPS teacher salaries are considerably lower than those in five of seven surrounding counties. Low salaries make it difficult to recruit new teachers. As of Nov. 22, there are 21 open teaching positions at PECPS. Teacher shortages place a tremendous strain on current teachers, leading to problems with retention. Our teachers need this investment.

Our schools are old and in a state of disrepair. In its November meeting, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a comprehensive renovation plan (estimated $28M) for Prince Edward County Elementary School. This is a great first step, but we need to pay for these renovations and make additional improvements in our middle and high schools. Our facilities need this investment.

It is completely fair for the Governor to demand a return on his investment. However, the investment must come first. Prince Edward County citizens and officials need to ensure that our schools receive the funding our children deserve. If so, I have no doubt that our eagles will soar.

Eric Hodges