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Hundreds Urge Lawmakers to Reverse Steep School Cuts

The tiny Orange County Education Association (OCEA) delivered on Saturday -- bringing busloads of Association members and others to Richmond to call on lawmakers to reverse steep cuts to K-12 education in the state budget.

More than 500 teachers, support professionals, and friends of public education from around the state heard the OCEA's call, waving signs and loudly proclaiming their support for schools threatened by the largest education budget cuts in the state's history. Near the end of the rally, they reprised a classic rock song by shouting, "We're not gonna take it anymore."

"Maybe this crisis is what it takes to wake up the sleeping giant around Virginia," VEA President Kitty Boitnott said as she surveyed the crowd in Capitol Square. "We have to demand that our legislators do what is right for our students, or else step asideā€¦"

Both the House and Senate versions of the state budget cut hundreds of millions in K-12 spending. At the rally, speakers made clear that huge cuts already are being readied in school divisions across the state. Kathy Burcher, legislation chair of the Virginia PTA, noted that local officials are talking about cutting enrichment programs and sports, closing or consolidating schools, and laying off scores of teachers and support professionals. "School systems for years have been doing more and more with less and less," she said, "but this time, the cuts will be devastating."

OCEA member Kyle Wormuth, a reading specialist, helped organize the rally and spread the word through Facebook and one-on-one conversations with colleagues and friends. Last week, as rally preparations went into high gear, he received his official Reduction in Force (RIF) notice from the Orange County public schools. Unless things change, he'll join thousands of Virginia teachers and support professionals who will lose their jobs because lawmakers could not, or would not, find a way to keep the commitment to quality public schools.

Lori Gues, an Orange County school bus driver and vice-president of OCEA, first suggested the rally in Richmond and organized her fellow bus drivers to bring three busloads from Orange County to Richmond. She said the rally is important for two reasons. "One reason is unity. Individuals who have lost their jobs or about to lose them need to realize that they are not alone, that we are in this together. Second, we need to hold our government responsible for funding public schools, which the [state] constitution requires them to do."

Boitnott seconded that thought. "Orange County deserves so much credit for standing up and saying, 'Enough already. We will not stand by and let the General Assembly and the governor move the state backwards.'"

Click here to view more photos from the rally or watch the slideshow below. Also, take a look at the following video speeches and interviews:

Kitty Boitnott, VEA (speech)
Kathy Burcher, Virginia PTA (speech)
Lori Gues, Orange County Education Association (interview)
Kyle Wormuth, Orange County Education Association (interview)



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