Students Win with Passage of New Negotiations Law
March 8, 2020
March 8, 2020
Contact: John O’Neil, VEA Communications, email@example.com; 804-873-8316
Richmond, VA [3/7/20]—The Virginia Education Association (VEA) won a hard-fought battle for students and educators across the Commonwealth today with the passage of a new bill that reinstates educators’ freedom to negotiate their contracts. Research indicates that when educators secure the right to negotiate, learning conditions improve for students.
“This new law means that educators will have a seat at the table,” said Jim Livingston, VEA President and a former math teacher. “VEA members across the state will be working their tails off to make sure their school board understands how students will benefit from contract negotiations. And what board wants to deny children an advocate?”
The bill which passed the General Assembly today will allow VEA’s local chapters to open a negotiations process with local school boards after the board has passed a resolution supporting local participation in bargaining. More than a dozen VEA local affiliates had such negotiated agreements before the Virginia Supreme Court struck down the practice in 1977, ruling that localities could not bargain without express permission of the General Assembly. VEA local negotiations at that time had successfully secured additional reading, art, and music teachers, the setting of school calendars, fairer discipline policies, and other benefits for schools.
“This is the most significant change in Virginia labor law in decades,” said Thea Lee, President of the Economic Policy Institute. “Under this bill, teachers, school staff, and municipal and county workers are going to have the chance to substantively address the learning and working conditions in the schools and communities where they serve, which ultimately benefits students and taxpayers. Their advocacy will be backed by an agreed-upon contract with the local school board or local government.”
VEA’s 40,000 members backed the new law because it will increase their ability to advocate for the enhancements their schools need, and their students deserve. “I felt like I lacked a tangible way to advocate for my students, I’m hopeful that negotiations will give me that tool,” said Kelly Walker, a government teacher in the Virginia Beach public schools. “I know we have our work cut out to gain local recognition from school boards, but I’m excited to see how I can make things better for my students.”
“People fail to realize that our educator’s working conditions are our student’s learning conditions” added Kimberly Adams, a media specialist in Fairfax County. “Prior to collective bargaining, teachers lacked a voice. The freedom to negotiate gives us a seat at the table and restores our ability to improve students’ learning environments.”
VEA put significant effort into restoring educators’ right to negotiate. They engaged with parents and their communities and helped form a coalition of organizations that represents public servants. VEA members sent more than 1,000 messages and made hundreds of calls to elected officials. They also pleaded their case in the Washington Post, Richmond Times-Dispatch, and numerous other media outlets.
VEA will hold a press briefing on Tuesday, March 10, at 1:30 pm, to discuss the new law in greater detail and share VEA’s plans for the year ahead. Reporters should contact John O’Neil at firstname.lastname@example.org for call-in details.