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Virginia Journal of Education


VEA News & Advocacy

Time to Make Some Noise!


How does this feel to you?
Virginia is a lowly 39th in the nation in per-pupil funding by the state for our public schools—but we’re an impressive 13th in state funding per offender in our prisons. Sound about right? Didn’t think so.

How about this one: Virginia is the 9th wealthiest state in the U.S., but our public school teachers remain over $7,400 short of the national average salary for teachers. Sound good? No, not really.

Here’s another fact: Virginia leaves its localities to work out the best deal they can with health insurers, instead of seeking a statewide plan that would save everyone money. And this while health insurance premiums eat up educator paychecks.

When are we, in large numbers, going to say “enough”? An excellent place to let our dissatisfaction with these kinds of situations is coming up on January 26. It’s VEA’s 2015 Lobby Day, and it’s an outstanding opportunity to let decision-makers in Richmond know how educators feel. You can also make yourself heard online:  Association members have shown themselves to be excellent cyberlobbyists.

To learn more about making your voice heard, check out www.veanea.org/cyberlobbyist  to become a online lobbyist and www.veanea.org to learn more about 2015 Lobby Day.

 

Nominate a Deserving Someone for a VEA Award

 

In recognition of the outstanding work being done by educators around our state, VEA is now accepting nominations for the following Association awards:

• Fitz Turner Award:  Honors outstanding contributions in intergroup relations and the enhancement of respect for human and civil rights. Nomination deadline: January 30, 2015.

• Mary Hatwood Futrell Award:  Honors leadership in fostering equality in educational opportunity and promoting equity and excellence in public education. Nomination deadline: January 30, 2015.

• Barbara Johns Youth Award:  Honors a student or student organization whose activities promote the dignity and esteem of others. Nomination deadline: January 30, 2015.

• Award for Teaching Excellence:  The highest honor VEA gives for creativity and excellence in teaching. Nomination deadline: February 2, 2015.

• Education Support Professional of the Year:  Honors the contributions of an ESP to his or her school, community and profession. Nomination deadline: January 15, 2015.

 A+ Award for Membership Growth:  Honors local Associations for growth, given in three size categories.  Nomination deadline: January 22, 2015.

For more information, visit www.veanea.org/grants.


Burcher Joins VEA

 

Kathy Burcher has joined the VEA headquarters staff as a temporary organizing specialist, responsible for working with local Associations from Richmond to the Tidewater area.

She began her career as a special education teacher before going to work for Capital One as a Management Development Consultant. She’s been very involved with the Virginia PTA, having served as that organization’s Legislation Chair and Vice President for Training.

Last year, she was instrumental in a successful campaign by a coalition of organizations to launch a meals tax in Henrico County and devote the proceeds to public schools.

 

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A Message from VEA President Meg Gruber



Help Stamp Out Gerrymandering!

VEA member Steve Lavery teaches government classes to high school junior and seniors in Pulaski County, and when he explains gerrymandering to them, they catch on very quickly. He’s heard comments like, “It doesn’t make sense!” and “What’s the point in voting if they’ve already decided who we get to vote for?”

You have to wonder why something so obvious to teenagers doesn’t seem to register with many of the adults in power in our Commonwealth.

VEA’s Resolutions serve as the Association’s statements of belief, and our members have voted to include the following statement in them: “Government serves best when voters choose their representatives, not when their representatives choose them.” We believe that our current legislative districts are an obstacle to fair representation, and that’s why we’ve made a transparent, bipartisan redistricting process an important part of our 2015 Legislative Agenda.

That’s also why VEA has become part of a coalition called OneVirginia2021, a group advocating for an amendment to the Virginia Constitution to establish an independent commission with the power to create political districts following the 2020 census.

Gerrymandering is the deliberate manipulation by the majority party to divide political districts in such a way as to maximize its strength and minimize that of the minority party. Sadly, Virginia is ranked among the most gerrymandered states in the U.S.

 This is a significant issue for several reasons:

• It leaves many elections with little competition, resulting in little accountability for elected officials and disenfranchisement for many voters.

• Without serious accountability, public officials have less motivation to seek solutions to pressing problems.

• Voters feel their time is wasted at the polls and stay away in large numbers.

• Districts end up with strange boundaries that split communities, diminishing or silencing the voices of many.

Incidentally, Lavery’s students also use a computer simulation in an attempt to draw more equitable districts in Virginia. Unfortunately, he notes that the simulator rejects our state’s current map, calling it too gerrymandered.

Gerrymandering is poison to democracy. Here’s what A.E. Dick Howard, a nationally-recognized constitutional law scholar at the University of Virginia, has to say about it: “If the mandating of one-person-one-vote was the generational issue of the 1960s, then eliminating political gerrymandering may be the issue of our time.”

It can be done. California was once the nation’s most gerrymandered state. After constitutional amendments were passed in both 2008 and 2010, maps were redrawn after the 2010 census. A headline in last year’s New York Times read “California Sees Gridlock Ease in Governing.”

OneVirginia2021 includes individuals and organizations from across the political spectrum, and we stand ready to support the coalition’s efforts. VEA members have always been amazing at educating our elected officials about important issues. We can make a difference on this one, too.

To learn more about gerrymandering and how you can help, visit OneVirginia2021’s website, www.OneVirginia2021.org. And then let your Senator and Delegate know how important this issue is to you, because fair redistricting can make a huge difference in your school and your entire community.
 


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