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Chesterfield School Board Approves Budget After Major Cuts to Teacher Raises

Officials sitting in semi-circle
Chesterfield School Board members and Superintendent Merv Daugherty listen to citizen comments during Tuesday's board meeting in which they approved the budget. (Photo: Ian Stewart/VPM News)

The Chesterfield School Board approved its 2021 fiscal year operating budget Tuesday. However, the final budget is almost $50 million less than originally requested.

The cut affected a proposal to increase teacher salaries. The original budget called for a “decompression of teacher salaries,” which sought to increase teacher salaries after years of stagnating wages, or compression. The proposed budget would have paid teachers based on years of service and college degrees earned, instead of relying on state wage increases. Now, the district is seeking a simple 2 percent increase. 

School Board Chair Debbie Bailey says she campaigned on raising teacher salaries to the national average and that the budget does not achieve her goals.

“A 2 percent salary increase is very disappointing. I am not satisfied. And I know that teachers are not happy, nor should they be,” said Bailey.

According to school administrators, the district had to amend its original budget due to a revenue projection from the Board of Supervisors. 

“This does fall short of what our needs are and what we know we need to do for our staff,” said Deputy Superintendent Thomas Taylor. 

The Board of Supervisors did allocate $100,000 to hire a consultant to conduct a study of teacher recruitment, retention and compensation, according to the Chesterfield Observer.

“We do have a teacher retention problem,” said School Board member Kathryn Haines. “I knew that as a mom of four. When I got on the board, I realized that we lost 35% of our workforce in the last five years. So decompression helps retain teachers,” she said.

Haines says that during the approval of the budget, the entire board got emotional.

“It's hard to realize that given our current revenue stream, we just can't do decompression,” she said. “I'm excited about the study and hope for a speedy completion so we can get started on doing this important thing."

Board Member Dot Heffron said an equity add-on in the budget was a positive development.

“It's a more equitable per pupil allocation. It's about three and a half million dollars,” said Heffron, who added that the allocation number hasn’t been adjusted in a long time. 

“And, you know, to look at what we could have purchased 25 years ago. For the same amount of money, what we can purchase today, there's a huge discrepancy. So we knew that we needed to get to adjust that per pupil base allocation,” she said. 

Heffron says pupil allocation allows the principal or administrator to purchase school supplies, from paper to guided reading materials to help strengthen literacy programs. 

“It can be used for programmatic applications that will have a direct impact on our students,” she said. “So schools that have higher numbers of students who are in economic, economically disadvantaged, are going to be able to meet their needs with more resources.”

Currently, there are twenty-two Title One schools in Chesterfield County. Title One schools receive Federal funding to help low income students meet educational goals and get reduced breakfast and lunches.

The school’s budget now goes to the Board of Supervisors, who are expected to hold a public hearing at a March 25 meeting. 

Ian M. Stewart is the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News. He also produces and hosts the World Music Show for VPM Music — now in its 16th season. You can often find him riding his bike around Chesterfield County or on Virginia's Capital Trail. Stewart has won multiple Regional Edward R. Murrow and Virginia's AP Broadcasters awards for reporting and sound editing. He graduated from San Francisco State University with degrees in journalism and creative writing.