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VEA Members Step Up During General Assembly

Like last time around, VEA had to fight some serious battles for public education during the 2013 General Assembly and, also like last time around, when the gavel came down on the session, Association members were standing tall.

“Our members answered the call once again,” says VEA President Meg Gruber, “and fought hard for our schools and our students. We should be rightly proud, and know that our efforts made a crucial difference for education and for our profession.”

Here’s a rundown on some of our members’ accomplishments this legislative session:

• Continuing contracts for teachers are alive and well in the Commonwealth, including resource teachers and many specialists, whose contract rights would have disappeared under an earlier proposal.

• We fought off drastic changes to the process used when a teacher contests a dismissal. Under the Governor’s plan, the lone hearing officer in such cases would have been a school division employee. We had doubts about the neutrality of such an officer and fought for change, ending up with “an impartial hearing officer from outside the school division.”

• Also under the Governor’s plan was a mandatory five-year probation period for new teachers instead of the current three. We ended up with probation periods of three to five years, at the discretion of the local school board.

• In the approved budget, teachers and support professionals will get funding from the state for a 2-percent raise, the first time in five years the state has done so. The budget can be amended during the veto session in April.

• The feasibility study we pushed for on a statewide health care plan will be done. Such a plan could save millions of dollars.

• An anti-bullying bill we initiated was passed. It will put a bullying definition in Virginia’s code and hopefully have a chilling effect on bullying in schools.

• Last but not least, VEA’s 150th anniversary was celebrated on the floor of the House of Delegates, with a full proclamation read, thanks to Delegate Tom Rust. A standing ovation followed.

Two items opposed by VEA members have made it through to the Governor and seem headed to become law later this year:

• The Governor’s plan for a state takeover of underperforming schools has been funded, but only at $150,000 instead of the original $600,000. Also, the scope of the takeover has been narrowed by language added in conference committee.

• Another proposal by Governor McDonnell, to give all public schools a letter grade from A to F, will move forward.

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