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On Lobby Day, VEA Members 'Turn Up the Heat'


“Turn up the heat!” was the chant of a crowd of VEA and Virginia PTA members at a rally on the grounds of the State Capitol Monday afternoon, and not just because of the damp and chilly setting.

The chant, which went on for several minutes, was in response to VEA President Dr. Kitty Boitnott telling the crowd, in a reference to legislators in the General Assembly, “If the folks up the hill are going to cook up a budget good for children – they are going to need a little heat. I ask each of you to turn it up! Do not allow them to fail our children!”

Earlier, Boitnott, to loud approval, had called on the state’s legislature to “fund the Standards of Quality, restore the cuts, invest in the future of our children, and recognize and reward the hard-working public school employees across Virginia.”

Following Boitnott to the podium, Virginia PTA President Anne Carson assured the educators in attendance that “an army of 300,000 PTA members in Virginia stands with you, and we’ll always have your back.” She also urged the Governor and the General Assembly not to forget their constitutional obligation to provide a high-quality public education for every child in the Commonwealth.
The rally capped off VEA’s Lobby Day, which brought several hundred Association members to the Capitol to educate legislators about the needs of students, schools and school employees.

Karen Downing, president of the Williamsburg/James City Education Association, made the case for protecting teachers’ continuing contract status to Senator John Miller, telling him, “Changing that is not going to help anything. As a former administrator, I know what’s involved in the evaluation process—it takes so much time. If administrators are doing all that paperwork, they won’t be doing what they need to be doing and the teachers who really need help won’t get it.”

Sen. Miller agreed and also vowed to stand by educators as legislators consider changes to the Virginia Retirement System. “We made an agreement with you through VRS,” he said, “and to change the rules now is not fair.”

Educators found support from many of the legislators they visited. Senator Mamie Locke told members from Portsmouth, Suffolk and Chesapeake that education had always been her passion and that she supports continued funding for vital public programs. “We’re always being told that we can’t find the money,” she said. “I’ll tell you where you can find the money!”

Daphne Waring-Sorrell, of the Portsmouth Education Association, encouraged Sen. Locke in her efforts, noting that city educators had gone five years without a salary increase.
Other legislators also voiced support on VEA issues, but stressed that grassroots work will be necessary to help them succeed.

“I don’t think we should let anyone get away with taking money from the General Fund and moving it into other areas, like transportation,” Senator Chap Petersen told a delegation of Fairfax members. “That would be devastating to public schools. Money diverted for transportation is money we don’t get back.”

Delegate Bobby Orrock, himself a high school teacher, assured Spotsylvania and Fredericksburg members that he would work to protect continuing contract status for teachers and wouldn’t support Governor McDonnell’s proposal to end it. “I won’t say for a second that there aren’t problems with the current system, but this isn’t the way to fix it,” he said.

More

• Read Dr. Boitnott’s complete remarks.
Speech by Virginia PTA president.
• View VEA photos from Lobby Day visits and the rally. (We’ll add to them, so check back!)


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