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Virginia Journal of Education

VEA News & Advocacy

You. Richmond. February 1. Be Heard.

Monday, February 1 is VEA’s 2016 Lobby Day, perhaps your best chance to let our elected officials know what public schools and educators most need from them. Come to Richmond, let your legislators put faces on the issues, and remind them of facts like these:

The state’s not doing its financial part. Per-pupil state funding for our schools is currently less than it was in 2005! Shifting the bills to localities is not the way forward. When it comes to paying for public education, “The General Assembly has largely abdicated its responsibility,” says the editorial page of the (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot.

There’s still too much emphasis on testing. While some progress was made last year, our children and our educators still spend far too much time preparing for and taking standardized tests. Testing is getting in the way of learning.

School employees still don’t benefit from a statewide health insurance plan. This is true, even though a JLARC study estimates such a plan could save the state $44 to $66 million annually.

We’re not paying our teachers enough. Classroom teachers in the Commonwealth earn 12 percent less than the national average salary for teachers.

Protecting the Virginia Retirement System must be a priority. Educators don’t get rich—everyone knows that. But we’ve always been promised the ability to retire in dignity when our service is over. VRS funding levels must continue to increase and benefits for the newly-hired must be protected.

So come to Richmond on February 1 for Lobby Day! VEA will provide briefings and all the information you’ll need to help you make your case to the men and women who represent you at the Capitol.


Evette Wilson Joins VEA Staff

VEA recently welcomed Evette Wilson, who is the new UniServ Director in the Ed-U-Serv office. She brings more than 26 years of experience as a public educator and public education advocate. A former member of both the Richmond Education Association and the Richmond School Board, Evette most recently has been teaching in South Carolina.


And The Winners of This Year’s Mini-Grants Are…

After applications were screened by VEA members on the Instruction and Professional Development Committee, the Association’s 2015-16 Mini-Grants have been awarded to:

 Valerie Wade and Katherine Shuffleton of the Loudoun Education Association, for “Improving Reading Comprehension with Audio Books”

• Rebecca Smith of the Fluvanna Education Association, for “From Pre-Columbia to Picasso”

 Contessa Magee of the Virginia Beach Education Association, for “Recycled Robots in the City”

• Michele Rzowski Copeland and Kelly Gesser of the Loudoun Education Association, for “Keeping Up with Kimmel: Read Around the World”

 Jennifer Diehl of the Prince William Education Association, for “Building Independence Through a Classroom Economy”

• Heather LaBelle Spillman and Amanda Rollins of the Spotsylvania Education Association, for “Gizmos Explore, Engage and Excite”

• Jenna Conlee of the Spotsylvania Education Association, for “Green Energy on the Grid”

• Rosemary Donaldson, Migdalia Rosario, Sharon Ruggieri, Scott Lockhart, Karen Shimkus, Erin Hannon and Cassigy Nolen of the Arlington Education Association, for “Multi-Disciplinary Monarch Conservation Garden”

• Andrea Rowanhill of the Albemarle Education Association, for “Deepening Student Understanding of Force Interactions in Physical Systems”

• Jennifer Nichols of the Prince William Education Association, for “Make Some Noise”

Nominations Open for VEA Honors

VEA members and others committed to the cause of public education have done great things for our young people and our schools in the last year. VEA wants to recognize their efforts, so nominations are now open for the following Association awards:

Friend of Education Award. VEA’s highest honor recognizes an individual or organization whose leadership, acts or support has significantly benefited education, education employees or students in Virginia. Nomination deadline: January 22, 2016.

Fitz Turner Award:
  Honors outstanding contributions in intergroup relations and the enhancement of respect for human and civil rights. Nomination deadline: January 29, 2016.

Mary Hatwood Futrell Award:  Honors leadership in fostering equality in educational opportunity and promoting equity and excellence in public education. Nomination deadline: January 29, 2016.

Barbara Johns Youth Award:  Honors a student or student organization whose activities promote the dignity and esteem of others. Nomination deadline: January 29, 2016.

Award for Teaching Excellence:
  The highest honor VEA gives for creativity and excellence in teaching. Nomination deadline: February 6, 2016.

Education Support Professional of the Year:
  Honors the contributions of an ESP to his or her school, community and profession. Nomination deadline: January 15, 2016.

A+ Award for Membership Growth:
  Honors local Associations for growth, given in three size categories.  Nomination deadline: December 4, 2015.

For more information, visit



Protect Local Control for Schools!

Here at the VEA, we’ve always supported the idea of local schools being governed mostly by local people: locally-elected school board members, local parents and the local community. No one knows the educational needs of a community better than the people who live, work and raise families there.

 That’s just one reason a constitutional amendment being proposed in the soon-to-begin session of the General Assembly is so inappropriate and unacceptable. The amendment, proposed by Sen. Obenshain, would completely change the way charter schools come to be in Virginia. Under this amendment, which would appear on the ballot if approved in the General Assembly, the Virginia Board of Education would gain the authority to establish such schools in any part of the state it deems appropriate, whether the local community supports the idea or not.
That’s outrageous.

It would mean that the power to create something as potentially controversial as a charter school would move from locally-chosen and locally-accountable officials to a state board of nine individuals appointed by the governor. Those nine could dictate a new and expensive undertaking for a locality.

Our opposition to this thinking is stated pretty clearly in our Resolutions, which serve as the Association’s statements of belief: “The local school board should be the only entity that can grant or renew charter applications.” (D-69)

Charter schools have not exactly caught on like wildfire in the Commonwealth. According to the Virginia Department of Education, there are only nine currently operating, spread out in five school divisions. I think this is a testament to the excellent job our traditional public schools are already doing, and also to the fact that many don’t believe charter schools are a “magic bullet” for solving some of the problems educators face.

VEA doesn’t take the position that charter schools are a bad idea. Under the right conditions, they can be useful. Those conditions (again, as stated in our Resolutions), include that charter schools not have a negative impact on local mainstream public schools, must have licensed staff who get the same protections other public school employees get, and must not divert funds from regular public school programs. In addition, VEA believes that public money shouldn’t be spent on charter schools operated by for-profit corporations.

It sounds to me like Sen. Obenshain and others who support his amendment have a political agenda and are looking for a way around the fact that charter schools aren’t catching on in Virginia. Maybe they’re thinking that if localities can’t be convinced that such schools are a good idea, a more sympathetic governor could be convinced to appoint state board members who favor starting charters.

This amendment is troubling for its rush to create a widespread network of charter schools, but even more so because it’s a way to circumvent an important element of local control of schools. There’s no reason to override the authority of local school boards on this issue.

It’s a bad idea. With your help, we must defeat this proposal. Please contact your Delegate and Senator and tell them to vote NO on SJ256!




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