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VEA Members Carry the Message to the Capitol


Delegate Scott Garrett was getting the message, loud and clear. Eight educators from Central Virginia were crowded into his office on a chilly Monday morning for VEA’s annual Lobby Day, and they weren’t pulling punches.

They spoke of issues including teacher salaries, class sizes and funding shortfalls. “My wife and I are both educators,” said Chad Honeycutt of the Bedford County Education Association. “I’m also working two other jobs, but with three children, we still fall below the poverty level. It’s hard to fathom, especially when you realize that more and more is being asked of teachers.”

Amherst Education Association President Melanie Lewis told Delegate Garrett about a teaching colleague who’s a single mom raising both a child and a grandchild, also struggling below the poverty line.

“We’ve all got stories like that,” said Sarah Aubel of the Lunenburg Education Association. “We got into this work for the kids, but we need to live, too. Virginia teachers are almost $7,500 under the national average for teacher salaries.”

“I’m an assistant principal,” said Wanda Smith, also of Amherst, “and I see the time our staff puts in. They’re not being compensated for it. They’re being taken for granted.”

Lewis also pointed out the dangerously downward trend in state spending on public schools, telling Garrett, “Our per-pupil spending is significantly less than it was in 2009, and that’s really causing some struggles in our area. We depend on our legislators to step up for us and say, ‘We’ve made enough cuts—we’ve got to find a way to fund what our children need.’”

Throughout the General Assembly Building in Richmond, VEA members were sitting down with elected officials, personally carrying the message that our public schools are in serious need. Delegations of educators came from as far west as Bristol and Wise County, as far north as the DC suburbs, as far east as Virginia Beach, and as far south as Mecklenburg County.

Fairfax Education Association members Kimberly Adams, Liz Taylor and Kimberly Perri talked with Delegate Kathleen Murphy about everything from the controversial A-F grading system again being proposed for schools, to the need for a more just fact-finding panel process in dismissal cases, to the shell game sometimes played with lottery funds.

Rebecca Jasman of the Louisa Education Association told Senator Creigh Deeds she’s been teaching for 17 years and still hasn’t reached the national average salary for teachers. “It’s getting harder and harder each year to be able to afford staying in teaching,” she said.

Jasman is also fighting harder and harder for our schools these days, saying this of being at the Capitol for Lobby Day: “The children depend on us. If we don’t speak up for them, no one else will.”

To see photos of today’s Lobby Day activities, go to www.flickr.com/photos/veacomm/.

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