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7,500 Members Attend Tele-Town Hall Meeting with Sen. Warner

Nearly 7,500 VEA members discussed school funding, No Child Left Behind, and a host of other critical issues during Monday night’s special Tele-Town Hall meeting with Sen. Mark Warner (at right).

Warner, who as Virginia governor spearheaded a $1.5 billion boost in K-12 funding, opened by telling VEA members their efforts are vital to the state’s economic well-being. “I know how important you are not only to Virginia’s future but also our country’s future,” he said.

Then the lines opened for questions. Congressional reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (once renamed No Child Left Behind), topped the list of member concerns. Warner noted that, as currently set up, NCLB doesn’t pay enough attention to student growth. “If you teach 5th grade and you have a student you take from a 2nd grade level to a 4th grade level, even though that student doesn’t pass the 5th grade test, I think that makes you a pretty good teacher,” said Warner. The waiver process established by the Department of Education is a good interim step until ESEA can be fixed, he added.

Questioners also raised issues concerning math and science programs, help for immigrant students who wish to attend college, educator salaries, and the “digital divide” affecting students and staff in rural areas who lack home access to high-speed internet.
Jennifer Sisler, a member of the Prince William Education Association, had a question Warner must have loved to hear: “What do you need us to do to support these causes?”

Speak up and hold elected officials accountable, was Warner’s advice. “As educators, people respect you,” he said. In social settings, “When you hear people say crazy stuff, call them on it,” he added. Ultimately, he said, members should demand that their representatives seriously engage on the critical issues facing the nation. “You’ve got to demand of all your elected officials that they give you more than sound-bite answers,” he advised.

VEA President Dr. Kitty Boitnott, addressing the same question, urged members to make sure elected leaders understood their concerns. “Tell them your personal story about what is happening in your classroom and with your students, and how policies affect them,” she said. “Remember that they will make their decisions based on who is talking the longest and the loudest.”



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