Virginia teachers are standing up and saying “Enough is enough!” to the decadeslong assault on public education by the state government. Virginia Educators United is building a statewide march and rally at the capitol in Richmond Jan. 28, to demand more state funds for the schools.
“The teachers don’t get enough help, not to mention they need more salary,” Mona Colvard, a therapeutic counselor in the Wise County public schools in rural southwestern Virginia, told the Militant Jan. 13 by phone. “We see kids every day that need one-on-one attention. School is important in their lives, and the funds aren’t there.”
Virginia Educators United members joined “bridge brigade” rallies on overpasses along Interstates 95 and 64 Jan. 8, where teachers and their supporters held up foam board with Christmas lights spelling “Fund Our Schools.” “Walk-in” rallies are being organized at schools across the state Jan. 16 to reach out to students, parents and other school workers.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s 2019 budget proposal promises a $268 million increase in education spending, including a 5 percent raise for teachers — which may or not be approved. Teachers’ pay in Virginia is 14 percent below the national average. The state government spends less per student than Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia.
The teachers are demanding higher funding for public education, infrastructure, and pay for teachers and support staff. Virginia law allows local school districts to raise funds to supplement state money, meaning schools in wealthier areas have more and better paid school workers and supplies.