Students, Schools the Winners on Election Day
November 6, 2019
November 6, 2019
In a historic day at the polls, Virginia’s voters showed their support for public schools by electing a pro-public education majority into both houses of the General Assembly. In so doing, they laid the groundwork for reinvestment in our students and staff, said VEA President Jim Livingston.
“Virginia voters spoke loudly today—they want great public schools, and they’re sending representatives to Richmond to stand up for students, educators, and schools across the state,” said Livingston. Virginia ranks 40th in state aid per student and 32nd in teacher pay, he said. “They need to have the will to fund our future.”
The VEA Fund for Children and Public Education, the Union’s political action committee, supported 84 candidates, including key races such as John Bell’s victory in the 13th Senate District and Schuyler Van Valkenburg’s in the 72nd House District. VEA ran an aggressive ground and digital program to make the public aware that when the General Assembly opens in January, it needs to make public education a top priority. Overall, 84 percent of candidates recommended by the VEA Fund won their races.
VEA members played a critical role in the suddenly much-brighter future of public education in the Commonwealth. In the run-up to the election, VEA members, staff, and supporters contacted voters in a dozen key races with phone calls and mailers. VEA volunteers knocked on 20,000 doors and made nearly 15,000 phone calls to elect pro-public education candidates. VEA also ran a robust digital campaign in targeted races to win support for education-friendly candidates. “Our goal was a pro-public education majority, and now we have that, and we’re going to be moving forward to make education the number one priority,” Livingston said.
In just one example, Phyllis Mullins and April Hay of the Dickenson County Education Association made a more-than-360-mile trek to Henrico County the weekend before the election to help in local canvassing efforts in crucial races. “We need to support candidates who are true supporters of public schools and will make the effort to fund our future,” Mullins said of their trip.
The work of the new General Assembly is clear-cut now: Overturning school funding cuts made during the recession, as our schools are still getting 8 percent less state funding than they were a decade ago, will be a major priority, as is raising teacher pay. Virginia teachers now earn about $8500 under the national average.
The General Assembly made raising teacher pay to the national average a state goal several years ago but has made limited progress. “The General Assembly needs to address teacher pay, and they need to do it now,” said Livingston.
VEA also will be looking to address the diminishing of teacher continuing contract provisions made during the McDonnell administration.
“We made history in this election,” Livingston said. “Now it’s time to mobilize and move forward, to make some very important things happen.”