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Proposed Henrico County Schools’ budget adds $20.4 million, takes aim at mitigating ‘salary compression’

Posted at 9:30 PM, Jan 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-24 21:32:04-05

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — Funds to improve the ratio of students to teachers and mitigate “salary compression” for staff are key aspects in Henrico County Public Schools’ recommended budget for the 2019-2020 school year.

The plan accounts for an additional $20.4 million supplement to the school system’s current budget, bringing the general fund to a a grand total of $505,544,812 and marking a 4.2 percent increase in available funds as compared to the current school year.

Highlights of the budget include studying and mitigating ‘salary compression’ of HCPS staff, a phenomena that occurs when new or less experienced teachers are paid at a similar rate as their more-experiences counterparts, regardless of skills or experience.  In Henrico County, the issue of salary compression has dominated budget discourse in debates over the county-wide school-specific budgets.

In a May 2018 focus group comprised of Henrico County elementary, middle, and high school teachers, educators across the the district voiced that fixing salary compression was the single most important factor in retaining teachers and improving job satisfaction. In regards to teacher retainment, fixing pay compression was rated higher  than  establishing teacher trust and autonomy, lessening teacher work load, and establishing in-house behavior support specialists.

Additional highlights of the proposed 2019-2020 budget include investments in:

– Reducing the student laptop fee from $50 to $25 to help working families, with the intent to eliminate the entire fee by Fiscal Year 2022.

– Adding teachers to improve pupil/teacher ratios.

– Adding more reading specialists and investing in other ways to strengthen academic programming.

– Adding staff members so elementary teachers get planning periods for effective instruction.

– Continuing to expand the Gifted Young Scholars Academy at L. Douglas Wilder Middle School, and integrating STEAM concepts (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) at all HCPS middle schools.

– Expanding the Achievable Dream Academy to the fourth grade at Highland Springs Elementary School.

– Adding additional seats for Henrico students at CodeRVA Regional High School.

– Offsetting the increasing costs of keeping the school division’s vehicles in good repair.

– Improving and replacing instructional supplies, textbooks and technology infrastructure.

– Converting instructional assistants from temporary to full-time positions.

– Employee health insurance costs

The County encourages residents to attend a pubic hearing  on Feb. 14 at New Bridge auditorium for comment on the recommended budget. The public hearing will take place at 6 p.m., following the Board’s regular work session. New Bridge auditorium is at 5915 Nine Mile Road in eastern Henrico. Next month, School Board members will review the proposal and provide additional feedback before a plan is approved in February, after which the plan moves to the Henrico Board of Supervisors for its approval.