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VEA News & Advocacy

Message From VEA President Meg Gruber

Make Your Vote Count!

The days are growing shorter and the evenings cooler. School is in session. It must be time for an election in Virginia.

I love living in a democracy and I value our hard-fought ability to vote. Many have died and others have sacrificed much to guarantee free elections, both here and abroad.

As educators, we have a particular responsibility to fully participate in the democratic process. Our students are watching. Are we doing the best we can to push through the 30-second sound bites and the mysteriously-funded negative commercials? Do we look past party affiliation to find the candidate who best supports our values? I’m a Republican, but sound education policy, not party, decides my vote.

Both the VEA and the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education have a process for recommending candidates to members. All candidates are sent a questionnaire, and when they return it, they’re interviewed by Fund members, who are your colleagues. They do their best to determine who best supports our values of supporting public education, our students and us. We don’t care what party affiliation they have, only what they stand for.

Richard Armour, the American poet, once wrote, “Politics, it seems to me, for years, or all too long, has been concerned with right or left instead of right or wrong.” We must look past party affiliations to see what the candidate truly stands for and, if she/he is an incumbent, what they have done, not their rhetoric.

At last year’s NEA Representative Assembly, the delegates voted overwhelmingly to recommend the re-election of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

Here’s why. During this unprecedented economic downturn, this is what President Obama has done for public schools: His American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (federal stimulus) saved 300,000 educator jobs, and the Education Jobs Fund saved an additional 150,000 jobs nationally. About 7,000 jobs were saved or created here in Virginia.

In addition, the Obama Administration strongly supports the American Jobs Act, which contains $30 billion for states to hire and rehire educators, in addition to hiring police officers, firefighters and our returning veterans. Sadly, this bill is currently stalled in Congress.

We have a tremendous responsibility as educators. I truly believe we are the organization that cares most about public education and what’s best for our students. It’s our duty as citizens to vote and never forget that our students and colleagues and public education are counting on us.

So I urge you to do your homework, cut through the rhetoric and forget party labels. Be issue-driven and party-blind—your students, your colleagues and your future depend on it!

Here are some concrete steps you can take:

• Know who your Association-recommended candidates are: Barack Obama for President, Tim Kaine for U.S. Senate, and Paul Hirschbiel, Bobby Scott, Jim Moran and Gerry Connolly for Congress (the last four if they’re running in your district).

• Be sure you’ve got proper ID when you go to the polls.

• Volunteer your time for candidates you support.

• Make your vote count and urge others to vote, too.


Taking License: Show Your Association Pride

Sporting an official VEA license plate on your car, in addition to just looking good, would be a powerful statement to others about your commitment to public education and the strength of our Association.

At last April’s VEA convention, delegates voted to move ahead with the required process at Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to make the plates available. To make that process work, however, we need to collect at least 450 pre-paid applications. Follow the steps below to make VEA license plates a reality and to reserve your plate:

• Complete the license plate application form VSA-10. You can download it at the VEA website by going to

• The cost for the basic VEA plate is $10. If you wish to personalize it, record the information (6-character maximum) in the boxes provided on the application. (You can transfer a personalized message you already have on your plate as long as it does not exceed 6 characters.) There is an additional $10 annual fee for personalized plates, for a total of $20.

• Return the completed application and a check made out to VEA with the appropriate fee ($10 or $20) to VEA, Attn: Yolanda Morris or Jo Redford, 116 South 3rd St., Richmond, VA 23219. VEA will deposit the check in a separate non-interest bearing account until the General Assembly and Governor officially approve the VEA plate (July 2013). If you choose, you can make your payment via credit card by providing that information on the application form.

Additional information you should know:

• If you change vehicles during the application and approval process, contact VEA, as we will have to work with you to complete a new application.

• International Symbols of Access (disabled) plates are available upon request.

Act now! Our goal is to collect more than 500 applications by January 1.

Questions? Contact Yolanda Morris or Jo Redford at VEA, 800-552-9554; or

(Note: license plate art is for illustrative purposes. Final art pending DMV approval.)


VEA Mini-Grants Pay for Innovative Classroom Projects

VEA’s Office of Teaching and Learning makes classroom projects happen in schools around the state through the Mini-Grants program. Teachers in need of funding can get up to $500 to launch a project for their students that they might otherwise have been unable to get off the ground. Here are the program’s most recent recipients:

• Kimberley Beuerle of the Lynchburg Education Association, for “Improving Fluency.”

• Dawn Forgit of the Williamsburg/James City Education Association, for “Hatching a Scientist.”

• Julie Jones of the Williamsburg/James City Education Association (and teammates Katie Cole and Angela Gogol), for “A Rich Musical Tradition: Folksongs from Virginia.”

• Julianne Sinnaeve of the Newport News Education Association, for “Building Early Success in a Child’s Education.”

• Anne Straume of the Albemarle Education Association, for “That Owl Ate WHAT?”

• Susan Stubbs of the Colonial Heights Education Association, for “Figuring Out Figurative Language.”

NEA Director To Be Elected

One of the VEA’s spots on the National Education Association’s Board of Directors is up for election this academic year. The position has a three-year term, from September 1, 2013 to August 31, 2016. Anyone wishing to run for the position must obtain an official petition from VEA by either writing to 116 South Third St., Richmond, VA 23219, or by e-mailing Barbara Rackley at

Deadline for the return of petitions is January 10, 2013. Voting will be done by registered delegates at the VEA convention in April 2013.

Ask a VEA Attorney

Question:  I’ve got serious issues with my principal, but I’m not an Association member. Can I join the VEA and get help immediately?

Answer:  By joining, you benefit from VEA advocacy for public education and public school employees. Your compensation, benefits, retirement, license requirements, work conditions and employment rights are shaped by VEA participation in public debate and presence at political votes. We’d love to have you—the more members, the stronger our voice. 

You need to be a member to get VEA advice and assistance. As a member, you can call on a VEA-employed UniServ Director (UD), who’s familiar with your school division but not a school employee, and can help you go over events and records, understand expectations, and make an appropriate response. The UD’s perspective and support may be all you need to deal with your demanding principal. 
VEA members are covered by liability insurance, based on membership on the date of the “occurrence.” The occurrence is not the day you are arrested or sued, but the date of the events for which you are prosecuted or sued.

VEA also provides legal representation to members who must defend themselves in employment matters such as dismissal or accusations of child abuse. If you didn’t join in your first 30 days of Virginia public school employment, you will not be eligible for VEA-paid legal assistance for the first 30 days of your membership. You will not be eligible for VEA-paid legal representation in a retirement case until you have been a member for at least one year.  

Late may be better than never. But waiting until you know you are in trouble costs you valuable benefits and assistance.

Come Along for the Ride
On VEA’s Facebook Page

Keep up with the information and discussion on VEA’s Facebook page, which now has about 3,600 “likes.” It’s a great way for members all over the state to stay in touch with one another, in a format many of our members are using every day. You’ll find VEA at Come on over and get in on the action! 

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