RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)- Governor Glenn Youngkin approved new laws giving teachers a tax break and providing more money for school construction.
Both measures went into overtime after the General Assembly’s 2022 regular session wrapped up. Youngkin had until Thursday at 11:59 p.m. to act on bills finalized during the special session.
Youngkin ceremonially signed legislation on Friday that will increase funding to replace and upgrade schools across the state. The event was held at Mecklenburg County High School and Middle School, where there was also a ribbon cutting to celebrate the construction of a new campus.
“This is monumental,” Youngkin said. “I’m sorry that support didn’t help build this but, you know what, you do have elementary schools that I know need investment, so we look forward to being back here at a future date.”
Senator Jennifer McClellan, one of the sponsors of the bill Youngkin signed, said the funding could also help rebuild Richmond’s Fox Elementary School, which went up in flames back in February.
“My son’s third grade classroom was right on the corner,” McClellan said. “This was a devastating event for our family.”
All together, the state budget includes $1.2 billion for school construction grants and loans.
“Since the 1950s, I don’t think we’ve had as big an investment in schools and yet the commission that I chair has found that over half of our schools are over one hundred years old and the total cost to replace them would be $25 billion dollars. Our localities just can’t do that on their own,” McClellan said.
McClellan said it’s too soon to say when applications will come out, how quickly the money will be allocated and which projects will be prioritized. She said the Virginia Department of Education is in the process of crafting guidelines.
Teacher Tax Break
Youngkin also approved a tax break for teachers, schools counselors, principals, special needs personnel and student aides. The law applies to educators at both public and private K-12 schools who worked for at least 900 hours during the taxable year in Virginia.
The law authorizes an income tax deduction of up to $500 dollars for those paying for professional development courses, school supplies or education-related equipment out of pocket. The credit can be used for taxable years 2022, 2023, and 2024.
Chesterfield Teacher Melanie-Nicole Harris said it’s a relief.
“It would definitely help because I just spent over 800 dollars on my classroom,” Harris said. “Any help we can get is appreciated. $500 is better than zero.”
Harris said the tax break isn’t likely to offset all of her expenses but it’s still important to her to spend the extra cash.
“The onus kind of gets put on teachers. If you want to have a dynamic, fun, collaborative classroom, you have to provide some of those materials. So that’s what I do,” Harris said.