Negotiation Rights for Educators, Justice and Equity Issues Highlight VEA Convention
January 8, 2021
January 8, 2021
Tackling the annual convention in a first-ever virtual format, over 300 VEA members maneuvered through cyberspace to lay some important plans for the Union, honor outstanding educators and legislators, and take stock of the havoc wreaked in everyone’s world by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result, VEA members will make the Union’s “Organizing 2 Bargain” campaign our top priority for the next two years; actively support the Black Lives Matter in School movement; advocate for legislation creating a public option for broadband access to ensure learning equity; push for increased flexibility and waivers for standardized tests due to the pandemic; and create a toolkit to help educators protect students from hate content on the internet. Members also approved the budget for the next fiscal year and heard reports from VEA’s Legislative Committee, Resolutions Committee, and Fitz Turner Commission for Human Relations and Civil Rights.
VEA President Dr. James J. Fedderman kicked off the 2021 event with a fiery speech calling for real progress in racial and social justice (see it on right). “We owe our students a rich and inclusive curriculum and we owe them school systems that are properly funded,” he said.
Executive Director Dr. Brenda Pike also gave the “State of the Union” address, underlining VEA’s current sure footing and our members’ bold aspirations for the future. “We have clearly staked out a leadership position in the public arena on issues that affect our students and members,” she noted. “We’ve developed excellent working relationships with statewide education decision-makers. To say that we are now recognized as the premier advocates for positive public education policy and collective bargaining in the commonwealth is an understatement.” (See her speech here.)
Delegates still found time to honor individuals and organizations for extraordinary work on behalf of students and public schools. VEA’s highest honor, the Friend of Education Award, went to Delegate Elizabeth Guzman, who represents parts of Prince William and Fauquier counties, in recognition of her General Assembly leadership on collective bargaining for public school educators. In addition, she used her legislative time to push for reduced caseloads for school counselors, universal pre-kindergarten, increased pay for educators, and additional resources for children with learning disabilities. (You can see her acceptance speech here.)
The 2021 Award for Teaching Excellence went to Erin Merrill of the Prince William Education Association and the Education Support Professional of the Year was awarded to Brandi Wilder, a school bus driver from the Frederick County Education Association. Delegate Lashrecse Aird, Delegate Nancy Guy, and Senator Jennifer McClellan were named VEA’s Legislators of the Year for their support of public education in this year’s General Assembly.
VEA members also busted the money goal for the VEA Fund for Children and Public Education, VEA’s political action arm, raising $62,115 and exceeding the Fund’s pre-convention goal of $55,000.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, teachers in Virginia earn 32.7% less in weekly wages than other (non-teacher) college-educated workers. Virginia’s teacher wage penalty is the worst in the nation.Take Action Now