The Virginia House of Delegates left without reaching a budget agreement late February, to the frustration of the Virginia Education Association (VEA). Lawmakers will reconvene on March 24 for a special session, attempting to approve the state’s budget. VEA is working to gain the attention of politicians in hopes that education funding will be addressed at the meeting.
State funding for education hasn’t increased since the recession, resulting in serious consequences in and around the classroom. The smaller budget means less staff and larger class sizes around the state as well as difficulties in hiring replacement teachers. Low pay and reduced retirement benefits simply can’t attract the most talented educators. VEA believes that underfunding schools isn’t in the state’s best interest. Virginia currently ranks 36 in the nation for teacher salary and spends $235 less per student compared to the 2009 budget.
In a media advisory, VEA President Meg Gruber said, “Virginia is in very grave danger of being unable to find qualified teachers to lead our classrooms, because of low pay and reduced retirement benefits… Our teachers earn $7,456 under the national average. We know that teachers are the #1 school-based factor when it comes to student achievement. Virginia students deserve the very best teachers we can give them.”