By CALVIN PYNN
One day after new data showed Virginia teacher pay dropping to 37th in the nation, Virginia Education Association President Meg Gruber called on Governor McAuliffe and the General Assembly to use the upcoming special session to address underfunding of public schools.
“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,” Gruber said at a news briefing. “Our teachers earn $7,456 under the national average.”
According to a news release from John O’Neil with VEA Communications, the new salary figures are contained in the latest rankings and estimates report compiled by the National Education Association.
Virginia teachers were once within several hundred dollars of the national average but now trail by a significant gap. According to Gruber, none of the budget proposals considered by lawmakers this session included the state share of a salary increase for teachers.
“We have urged them to use the upcoming special session to correct this failure of leadership and to invest adequately in Virginia students, their schools, and those who teach in them,” said Gruber. “We know that teachers are the number one school-based factor when it comes to student achievement. Virginia students deserve the very best teachers we can give them.”
Jim Livingston, a math teacher who is president of the Prince William Education Association, said state budget cuts have contributed to larger class sizes. As a result, teachers face shortages of supplies, assign fewer writing projects because of larger class loads, and spend more time managing student behavior.
“There is a direct link between class size and quality instruction,” said Livingston. “With too many students overcrowding the classroom, there is less time to assist kids with individual projects, less time to evaluate essays or other work, and fewer opportunities to work individually with a student to diagnose a learning problem. When that happens, more children simply fall through the cracks.”
Joey Mathews, president of the Loudoun Education Association, noted that class sizes have increased there, as well. In addition, state budget cuts have kept schools from modernizing.
“In Loudoun, which is home to companies like Telos, Verisign, and AOL, the technologies available for teachers and students are in short supply and needed technological upgrades have been delayed,” he said. “Schools’ broadband access is not sufficient … and our schools do not have the technological infrastructure to meet mandated SOL testing and instructional needs at the same time.”
For more information and the complete report, visit www.nea.org/home/rankings-and-estimates-2013-2014.