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Educators Bring School Stories to Capitol


It’s not often that an elementary school reading specialist from Orange County gets the uninterrupted ear of the Minority Leader of Virginia’s House of Delegates. But not every day is VEA Lobby Day, either.

Orange County member Kyle Wormuth had about 20 minutes with Delegate David Toscano, and he made the most of it. “As teachers, we often feel that we don’t have the support we need,” he told Toscano, “and politicians make the decisions that could give us that support. We teach because we want to make a difference, and what we want more than anything is the support of you and your colleagues. Let teachers teach.”

Wormuth had an appreciative audience in Toscano, who recently earned a “Solid As a Rock” Award from VEA for his consistent support of public education. “I know teachers need more money and more flexibility to teach kids the skills they need to know,” the delegate told Wormuth. “I’m with you.”

A group of Albemarle Education Association members joined the meeting and stressed the need for better salaries for teachers. “I’ve been teaching for 20 years,” said Diane Espinosa, “and I just hit 50 thousand dollars.”

Her Albemarle High School colleague Therese Murphy spoke up for the finances of beginning teachers, too. “They want to teach, they’re happy to be in the classroom, but then they look at their checkbooks and reality hits,” she said. “We’re losing them.”

Similar conversations were happening throughout the General Assembly Building, as more than 250 Association members from around Virginia traveled to Richmond on a Monday in January to visit their legislators and speak directly with them on classroom issues.

Prince William’s Riley O’Casey invited Delegate Luke Torian to the county’s “Teach for a Day” event, to be held this spring.

Bob and Debbie Umstead of Alleghany County reminded Delegate Terry Austin that local educators had gone several years without raises.

Virginia Beach Education Association President Trenace Riggs urged Delegate Bill DeSteph to support a statewide health insurance plan for educators.

Members were equipped for those conversations by Lobby Day briefings offered by VEA’s Office of Government Relations and Research on both Sunday night and Monday morning. “It was great to see such a delegation of educators in Richmond to engage their elected officials,” said VEA President Meg Gruber. “No one can tell public education’s story like our members can.”

View photos from Lobby Day here.

 


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