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Virginia Journal of Education

VEA News & Advocacy


VEA Members Made a Difference at the Ballot Box

Governor-Elect Terry McAuliffe and Lieutenant Governor-Elect Ralph Northam, along with about two-thirds of the members of Virginia’s House of Delegates, owe a big tip of the cap to VEA members. The dedicated efforts of Association volunteers across the Commonwealth went a long way toward putting some new friends of public education in office and making sure some that were already there got another term.

About one in every 120 registered voters in Virginia is a VEA member, and here’s some of the work they volunteered to do, often working with the National Education Association:

• VEA members hand-wrote more than 7,000 postcards that were mailed to other members urging them to vote on Election Day;

• Members canvassed neighborhoods in two Saturday “Days of Action” in October and November to get out the vote;

• Several thousand VEA members participated in a Tele-Town Hall Meeting with Mr. McAuliffe to learn more about his views on public education;

• The NEA Advocacy Fund contributed a significant media buy. In the governor’s race, the Fund produced two school-focused TV ads airing in Roanoke, Richmond and Tidewater in September and October, supported with online ads. That campaign helped elevate education as a campaign issue and also helped leverage educators’ credibility as trusted and respected voices in their communities.

“The victories of Terry McAuliffe, Ralph Northam and so many of our recommended House candidates confirm that education is an issue voters care deeply about,” says VEA President Meg Gruber, “and our Association played a key role.”

VEA-Retired Celebrates 20 Years of Activism and Advocacy

In 1993, a group of retired Association members organized themselves, created the Virginia Education Association-Retired—and got to work. Twenty years and more than 4,500 members later, the organization has made a lasting impact both within and without VEA, and so they gathered at the Homestead Resort in Warm Springs to celebrate and to remember.

“My life is better because of the work you’ve done,” Joyce Powell, former president of the New Jersey Education Association and current member of the NEA executive committee member, told some 55 VEA-R members in attendance. “You took risks, became activists, and made sure educators had a voice at local, state and national levels. If you hadn’t done it, who would have?”

NEA-Retired President Tom Curran of Maine also made the trip to Virginia for the celebration. “Thank you for all you’ve done,” he told the group. “In the eyes of many, you are heroes. You never stopped caring for the children, our schools and your colleagues in the schools.

“I’d like to tell you that now that you’re retired, you can relax and enjoy yourself. I really would. But your activism has never been needed more,” Curran added. “There are forces out there whose mission it is to destroy public education, NEA and other unions. If they need to badmouth educators to meet their goals, they’ll do it. We need to be on our toes. Stay informed, and make sure those running for office know you and your positions.”
Martha Wood of Albemarle County and Katherine Hairston of Martinsville, two of the original group that got VEA-R up and running, were at the celebration, and both remain active in their Association. “Being involved helps me to know what’s happening in education not only here in my area,” Hairston says, “but across the country. It means a lot to me to see what my colleagues are doing in other places.”
VEA-R members were active in Virginia’s state elections this year, and are annually a big presence at the “Outreach to Teach” events held in the city hosting the NEA Convention.

Other members of the 1993 organizing group were Beth Nelson of Radford and Marcilla Humphries of Virginia Beach, who are now deceased, and Edith Good of Rockingham County, Barbara Jureidini of Arlington, Lucille Roane of Richmond, and John Duncan of Fairfax.

Wood was VEA-R’s first elected president and has served in various leadership roles ever since. Pat Kennedy, formerly of King William County, is the current president. Kennedy and Eddie Fifer of Washington County represent VEA-R on the VEA Board of Directors.

Some of VEA’s ‘General’ History

As part of our celebration of the 150th anniversary of the VEA, former Director of Communications Bill Johnson has been pouring over historical documents located around the state. Below is an excerpt from a document he found in Lexington, written by the president of what was then called Washington University. That president was General Robert E. Lee, who, as an Association member, filed the Report of the Committee on School Discipline to the Educational Association of Virginia, in 1867:

The selection of proper persons for the office of teachers is a matter of the first importance, & as its duties require love & comprehensive preparation, it should be regarded as among the most honorable & important professions, and be committed to those whose beneficial influence & instruction shall extend to morals & religion as well as to the intellect. The teacher should be the example to the pupil. He should aim at the highest attainable proficiency & not at pleasing mediocrity…Above all, he must be uniform, consistent, firm & kind in his conduct & teach more by acts than by ends…Should the daily business of the school be conducted on these principles & the pupils be trained in habits of obedience, reverence & truthfulness, & be convinced that they are noble & lively in themselves, the main object of the teacher will be attained.

To learn more about VEA’s 150-year history of advocacy and influence, visit the anniversary section of our website at



A New Day in Virginia!

The people have spoken in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, and they agreed with us that Terry McAuliffe is the right man to serve as our state’s 72nd chief executive. McAuliffe’s election signals a new day for public education in the Commonwealth—schools, students and educators now have a friend in the Governor’s Mansion!
Throughout his campaign, the Governor-Elect told audiences around the state the same thing he was telling us in private meetings—that he views education as an investment, not an expense.

Our success in this election would not have been possible without all the hard work our members did. In addition to everything else you had on your plates, you stepped up and made phone calls, knocked on doors, and made sure your friends and neighbors knew how public education would be affected by this year’s election. VEA members aren't in a position to donate big bucks, but you sure played a big role as volunteers. Many thanks for your tireless efforts, and please stay involved and engaged as we move toward special elections and the upcoming session of the General Assembly.
Now that election night celebrations are over, we must shift our focus to the transition to the McAuliffe Administration and the session of the General Assembly that is just over the horizon.
Here are the priorities our members have set for the 2014 General Assembly:

• Preparing our students to step into an increasingly global and competitive marketplace by reducing class sizes, improving dropout prevention programs, and increasing state support for some of education’s basics: updated facilities, appropriate technology, increased support for education support professionals, and adequate supplies. Our state is the ninth wealthiest in the nation, but we rank only 38th in state funding for public schools.

• A six percent salary increase for our teachers. We lag $6,500 behind the national average salary for teachers—how are we going to attract and retain the best teachers?

• The repeal of the A to F grading system for individual schools. There’s no way a single letter grade can offer a complete and fair measure of a school’s performance.

• Adherence to the General Assembly’s planned increases in contribution rate to the Virginia Retirement System, which has been underfunded for years.

• Freeing up some money by investigating a statewide health insurance plan and closing some unnecessary corporate tax loopholes.

• Changes in the teacher dismissal grievance timeline and in the Child Protective Services section of the Code of Virginia, both to better protect our educators.

To make all this happen, we’ll once again need for our members to make their voices heard. I’m very confident we can do it—look what we just helped make happen at the polls!

There are no better qualified people than VEA members to offer advice to our elected officials about what’s best for public education. And now we’ve got some officials who are willing to listen.


Ask a VEA Attorney

  I am an experienced special education teacher. What rights do I have when a parent is posting negative information and lies about me on Facebook? This parent has been hanging around my classroom, sometimes for over an hour.

Answer:  First, I’m sharing your information with your local UniServ office so VEA staff can help you communicate with school officials regarding when, how, and how long the parent is allowed to visit the classroom, what happens during those visits, and whether anything can be posted on social media about those visits.  The parent may be seeking to have the school pay for a different special education placement of the student, and may think that disparaging you will provide grounds for change in placement.

Also, this link will take you to the Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities: Threats violate Facebook standards and can be reported. Your UniServ director can help you review the parent’s postings and report violations of Facebook standards. 



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