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Boitnott Urges State Board Not to Shortchange Schools


On March 26, VEA President Kitty Boitnott addressed the state Board of Education in Richmond. Her comments follow.

President Emblidge, members of the Board, Dr. Wright and ladies and gentlemen, I am Dr. Kitty Boitnott, President of the Virginia Education Association.

I am here today to emphasize the VEA's position regarding the importance of your deliberations and actions in response to a directive you have received from the Virginia General Assembly.  I'm sure that you know by now that Conference Amendment 140 #8c, barring amendment by the Governor, directs this Board to "review the current Standards of Quality to evaluate the appropriateness of the existing staffing standards for instructional positions and the appropriateness of establishing ratio standards for support positions, with the objective of maximizing resources devoted to the instructional program. The findings of this review, its associated costs, and its final recommendations for re-benchmarking shall be submitted to the Governor, the Chairmen of House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees, and the Joint Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education Funding established pursuant to Item 1, paragraph H. of this Act no later than November 1, 2009."

As you proceed with this task, we request that you to consider a context of reference broader than the budgetary constraints facing the Commonwealth. We urge you to consider your constitutional duty to determine and prescribe the Standards of Quality "to ensure that an educational program of high quality is established and continually maintained."

Please consider as you deliberate that our Commonwealth now ranks 37th in the nation in state support per pupil (Attachment #1).

Some will tell you that the "Support Position Methodology" was motivated by a desire to eliminate a perverse incentive to shift resources away from the classroom and from teachers as the state currently provides a higher level of support for the support positions.  Some will tell you, that there was a budget gap and that this was a way to fill that gap.

We at the VEA contend that if you accept the methodology proposed by the Governor, the consequence will result in a $340 million annual reduction in state support for our schools.

The VEA urges you to consider that the problem may not be that we provide too much for the support positions.  The problem may be that we provide too little for instructional positions.

The Constitution calls upon you to "take into account the actual cost of education."

Perhaps, instructional positions should be supported at the level that support positions currently are?  At worst, wouldn't a cost neutral alignment of the level of support fix the perceived problem?

Allow me to close with two thoughts.  First, the suggestion that the work of our support personnel does not have a direct impact on the classroom is, frankly, a mistaken one.  Teachers, like front line soldiers, need support personnel to effectively complete their mission.

Second, we are not doing what we need to do to attract highly quality personnel to our classrooms.  During this administration, we have fallen from 5th to 8th in teacher salary within the Southern Region (attachment).  Nationally our teacher salary ranking has fallen to 30th.  And, I ask you to listen to this very carefully:  the average Virginia teacher salary as a percent of average annual pay of all workers ranks 50th (attachment).

You are being asked to participate in a process that, if implemented, will undermine long term funding of public education in Virginia.  You are being asked to participate in an effort to cut $340 million a year in state support for our public schools.  I respectfully ask you to continue the proud tradition of this board by refusing to participate in that process.  The citizens of Virginia and their children need you to stand up for public education as you address this important issue.

 

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