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Members Press Concerns During Lobby Day Visits

Jennie MacBlane, a 4th grade teacher and member of the York Education Association, attended her first VEA Lobby Day Monday. If lawmakers don't address her shrinking paycheck as they wrestle with the state budget, she worries she won't be able to remain teaching for long.

"We last received a pay increase in 2008," she told Del. Brenda Pogge during a visit with other members from Colonial-area local Associations. "We were recently told we would not get a step increase again this year for 2012. I don't want to change professions. But if it continues the way it is going, I will have no choice. I love teaching and I love my students, but I've got to take care of myself, too."

Del. Bob Tata and Sen. Edd Houck are sponsoring legislation to boost state funding of salaries for teachers and other employees covered by the Standards of Quality. VEA is pushing for the state share of a 3-percent increase. Governor Bob McDonnell, though, wants to cut teacher pay by 5 percent to pay into the Virginia Retirement System, and he says school divisions who do this should give their teachers a 3 percent raise in return. VEA members told their legislators on Lobby Day that the math doesn't add up.

Dorothy Carter, president of the Henry County Education Association, told Del. Ward Armstrong that cutting the pay of education employees even more in these times could result in a rush for the exits. "There are 132 teachers at the top of the scale in Henry County and we're afraid that if they get a 2 percent reduction, we'll lose many of them," she said. "We can't afford to lose all that strength and value. We depend on them."

Armstrong assured her, in return, that he stood with VEA on the 3-percent raise and on VRS. "One reason many state employees forego the better money they could make in the private sector is that we offer good insurance and retirement benefits," he said. "If we erode either one, how are we going to attract and keep good people?"

Carter said Lobby Day helps legislators understand the needs of public education. "I think we made a difference in the budget last year," she said, adding, "We all need to be calling, writing and speaking out about education."

For the latest on the budget, VRS, and other education legislation, check out the VEA's Daily Reports from the General Assembly.


Check out Lobby Day photos at our Flickr site.




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