Local teachers joined in the statewide march on Richmond Monday to demand for funding for education from the General Assembly.
Jeff Rudy is a teacher, coach, and president of the Shenandoah County Education Association and Abby French, Secretary for the association, were among the thousands of teachers, parents, and students who thronged the Capitol steps. Three Frederick County teachers and education associations also participated, said Shaniqua Williams of the Frederick County Education Association.
This march follows teacher strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Los Angeles.
They listened to speakers such as the First Lady of Virginia, Pamela Northam, Virginia Education Association president Jim Livingston, and Mayor Levar Stoney of Richmond
“The SCEA is joining teachers, parents and students from across the state to rally for public education. We are marching for our students. We’re simply asking Richmond to fund our future. When budgets get cut and full funding is not achieved, it is the students who pay the price,” Jeff Rudy wrote in an email Tuesday.
Rudy said per-pupil spending, when adjusted for inflation, is 9 percent behind 2009 values. At the same time, there are 53,000 more public school students in Virginia than in 2009.
“Virginia is ranked 12th in the country in per capita income, but 43rd in student spending, Rudy stated.
For French, the march was to bring attention to important issues.=
“Jeff and I joined the hundreds of other rally attendees on the front grounds of the Capitol to raise our voices and signs in support of funding public education. The rally showcased the widespread concern over the challenges faced in public education and lifted the cry of educators for lawmakers to do something to fix what is broken by securing and committing to adequate funding,” French stated in an email Tuesday.
She marched because she wanted her students to see government and lessons in civics in action.
“ I want my students to see the importance of speaking up to voice their concerns and advocate for change. I hope they see the thousands of educators, dressed in red, and know that each and every student in our state is worth fighting for and deserves the opportunity of a high-quality education.” French wrote.
She also wanted fellow teachers to know that they matter, that hard work is being done to raise awareness of the many challenges they face.
French hopes the march sends a message to Virginia’s lawmakers and leaders that now is the time to provide the funding necessary to make public education an absolute priority.
“There was a unity feeling in the air seeing members in red all over the capital building knowing that we are all on the same page, and we are all asking for our delegates and senators to support our educators and support our schools, by supporting the Governors Budget Amendments, and Supporting the School Counseling Ratio adjustment to align with the American School Counselor Association,” she wrote.
They were also in Richmond to ask for pay increases for teachers and for school bus drivers, custodians, instructional aides, and cafeteria workers.
Virginia teacher salaries are $9,200 below the national average, he said.
Gov. Ralph Northam has proposed increasing the state’s portion of a planned 3 percent teacher raise to 5 percent next year.
“Right now, the state still has over 1,000 teacher vacancies. Virginia needs to invest in our teachers and support staff or risk losing them to other states or other professions. If we want the best teachers and support staff for our students, then we have to invest in our future,” Rudy stated. “We are in Richmond today to meet with our elected officials and are asking them to commit to fund our future. We need elected leaders who will invest in our schools.”
Rudy and French met with Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Mount Jackson, for about 45 minutes and asked him to support Northam’s budget that includes the pay raise.
They also talked to him about the need for social services in the schools and the role of education in attracting business to Shenandoah County, Rudy wrote.