VEA Calls for Greater Support for Students in Response to Health Crisis
June 9, 2020
June 9, 2020
Contact: John O’Neil, VEA Communications, at 804-775-8316
VEA President Jim Livingston made the following statement in response to Governor Northam’s announcement of new guidance for Virginia public schools:
Governor Northam rightly places the health and safety of Virginia students, their families, and school professionals at the center of the guidance he issued today. Faced with a global pandemic that has taken 407,000 lives, including at least 1,400 Virginians, we must choose the course that diminishes and ultimately halts the spread of this deadly virus.
The 40,000 members of the Virginia Education Association are dedicated to helping all children reach their learning goals, and in these past three months many have gone to heroic lengths to keep children safe, fed, and learning. Summer school will carry a different connotation this year, as our members work with local and state education officials, as well as with parents and community members, to create the best plan for the 2020-21 school year set to begin in just a few months.
We are up to the task, and we will do everything within our power to ensure that Virginia students benefit from the best possible learning options this fall. As teachers and education support professionals, we will be there for Virginia’s children, as we always have been.
Virginia schools are responding capably and faithfully to the crisis, but COVID-19 has laid bare the Commonwealth’s underinvestment in our students, and the disgraceful inequities that allow advantaged children to advance while so many poorer students and children of color are consigned to the minimum of what we believe can be scraped together.
The fact remains, even before COVID-19 hit, Virginia was funding public schools at a rate of 8 percent less than it did before the Great Recession. The fact remains that students of color and those living in poverty attend schools with fewer resources, and learning and general wellbeing outcomes for those students are stark testimony to the effects of the investments we have chosen NOT to make.
A crisis of this magnitude requires crisis measures to support Virginia students, especially those living in poverty.
The measures outlined by Governor Northam today will require millions of new dollars for Virginia public schools—dollars that many localities will struggle to, or will not be able to, provide. VEA calls for increased federal investment in schools, including the passage of the HEROES Act, to reduce funding gaps. We also call upon the Governor and General Assembly, in finalizing the state budget, to put every available dollar toward helping students, and the schools that serve them, thrive in these exceedingly difficult circumstances. Nothing in our state budget matters more than providing support to these students, who have already had significant disruption to their schooling. State leaders must do whatever it takes to support them.
We cannot forget that public schools are the cornerstone of our democracy. They are the engine by which our young people grow, learn, and take their places in society and in Virginia’s economy. In responding to this global pandemic, we cannot afford to shortchange the children in our public schools.