Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia has approved a $1.8 billion budget for fiscal year 2025 that includes funding for special education and plans to expand a preschool program for students from low-income families.
The school board approved its budget at a meeting Tuesday night. It’ll be up to the Board of Supervisors to include the school district’s funding in its countywide budget. A joint work session with the school board and supervisors is scheduled for later this month.
The school division’s plans for fiscal 2025 call for an increase in funding from last year’s $1.67 billion budget. It includes an average 6.5% raise for employees and signing bonuses as part of the school district’s recruitment and retention efforts, Superintendent Aaron Spence said.
“This budget adoption is the perfect example of the school board and administration working together to ensure we are serving each and every student every day,” said Spence, who’s in his first year with Loudoun County schools.
Dozens of community members spoke at a Tuesday public hearing on the budget. Some called for the school district to reinstate the Virtual Distance Learning Elementary program, free or low-cost after school programs, alternatives to one-time bonuses to keep teachers and more support for special education students.
“As parents, we believe that it’s important to focus on children with special needs, because they have great challenges in being able to perform at school,” one speaker said. “We are concerned that they do not receive the necessary attention and support to improve the standards in the special education classroom.”
Over $33 million of the budget will be used to open two new schools and support English language learners and special education students.
Spence’s budget plan called for funding for over 100 positions to support special education, English language learners and economically disadvantaged students. The board also approved a special education supervisor for transition services as part of its amendments.
The school division’s English language learners population is projected to increase by 6.4%, it said in a news release. It’s expecting the population of students who get special education services to increase by about 4%.
An amended plan that was approved Tuesday called for implementing an expansion of a full-day pre-K program called STEP. The program is funded locally and by the state, and is offered to 4-year-old children from low-income families. The initiative aims to close the achievement gap between those students and their peers.
The school district’s original budget plan called for six full-time employees for the program, which would be offered to 160 students for a full day and another 160 for a half day. However, the board approved board member Lauren Shernoff’s amendment to have all students attend for the full day.
”Bottom line — it’s putting more kids in classrooms for more time,” Shernoff said. “It also will support the community and provide a safe learning environment where children have their physical, social and educational needs met.”
The school district said 89% of the budget increase will be used for school-based staff and needs.