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Virginia Journal of Education

by Cherral Moore

I’m a proud teacher in Henrico County and am very fortunate to be working in one of Virginia’s wealthier school divisions. You might think I could ignore cuts to education funding; however, even for us, the cuts to public schools have had a significant impact on our students, our classrooms and our educators.

Here are some disturbing statistics:

• Class size in Virginia is growing at an alarming rate. During the 2004-2005 school year, only two states had smaller class sizes than Virginia; today, 42 states have smaller class sizes than we do!

• In 2008-2009, our state’s per-pupil funding was $5,277, but in 2011-2012, it has fallen to $4,581.

• And maybe the most often-quoted statistic is that while Virginia is the seventh wealthiest state in the nation, we rank only 38th in state support for our public schools.

Larger classes mean that children who need the most individual attention are most likely to fall through the cracks. Caring professionals like us know that our children deserve better!  Many of my co-workers and I tutor before school and after school with no extra pay. Caring professionals also know that our teachers deserve better!
In many localities, our students’ parents are losing their jobs. As a result, they can’t even afford to buy basic school supplies to meet the school’s requirements for their children. Our children deserve better! My co-workers and I help purchase what those children need, out of our own pockets, so they won’t feel embarrassed around their peers and so they’ll continue to have the best opportunity for success. Many teachers buy supplies for their students and classrooms despite the fact that they haven’t received a raise for at least three years. 
In spite of all the requirements spelled out by the Standards of Learning, many teachers are still trying to teach students to be creative and to think outside the box. This too requires additional funds, but the burden of purchasing needed classroom supplies has shifted from the school division to our teachers. My co-workers and I are paying for what our students need to be successful. We know students deserve better, and so do teachers!

To have successful classrooms with 30 to 35 (or more) students per period, you need a lot of supplies: things like calculators, computer printer ink, headphones, paper, novel sets and much more. To keep our students abreast with 21-century technology, once again the purchasing needed for our children has shifted, this time from the school division to the parents and/or Parent Teacher Association. Our students, parents and teachers deserve better!

In developing the “whole child,” our students need enrichment activities, such as field trips, to help what we’re teaching them become reality and a part of them. I’m not talking about luxury trips. Some of our children never get opportunities to venture beyond their neighborhood, their county, or the state of Virginia. Our children deserve better!

Many of our students have gifts and talents just waiting to be cultivated, yet they can only receive music, art, physical education or library instruction one or two days per week. The days of these wonderful resource teachers are often divided among several schools, so our children cannot truly reap the benefits of their expertise. Our children deserve better!

Virginia’s teacher salary ranks 23rd in the nation, falling $4,510 below the national average, while the average pay of Virginia’s other workers ranks eighth. Because of the salary issue and the often-stressful working conditions, the teaching profession is not attracting the best and brightest from the ranks of our college students. Our children should have—and deserve to have—the best teachers. Our current and future teachers deserve better!

This consistent decline in the investment of public education will bring harm to the long-term prosperity of our beloved commonwealth. We must make the future of our children our top priority. To do so will require a balanced approach that includes new revenue sources. Virginia’s educators deserve a just reward for their hard work and daily contributions, and Virginia’s children deserve to be prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.

Virginia’s teachers have continued to give above and beyond what should be expected, and they do it out of their love for children and their profession. How wrong it is for us to be taken advantage of! It must stop. Hard-working parents want the best for their children, too, but get less than they deserve. Together, our desire and prayer is that someday, through the public school system, every child will be solidly prepared for college, the workforce, and a fulfilling career that help them become productive citizens for the rest of their lives.

Moore, a member of the Henrico Education Association, is a math teacher at Pocahontas Middle School and serves on the VEA Board of Directors.


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