RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The Virginia Capitol was filled with hundreds of teachers, school leaders and parents Monday rallying for more school funding, additional school counselors and an increase in pay.
The Virginia Education Association held the kickoff to its “Fund Our Future” campaign, focused on making changes for public school systems, starting with help from legislators.
"It's just the beginning,” said VEA President Jim Livingston. “We're going to be talking loudly, and we're going to be talking clearly. It's time that the General Assembly, the Commonwealth of Virginia, funds the future of public education."
Among those who attended the rally were Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, Virginia’s Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson and the First Lady of Virginia Pam Northam.
"It's really exciting to see everyone come together and realize everyone is behind public education,” said Malia Huddle, a retired school counselor from Chesapeake. “[Legislators] need to get on board too."
Monday morning on the floor of the House of Delegates, Appropriations Committee Vice-Chairman Steve Landes announced that the house budget released Sunday will include a five percent pay raise for public school teachers, and claims is does so without raising taxes.
Governor Ralph Northam supports the measure. In 2018 he announced a similar pay raise effort.
Teacher salaries are just one issue the VEA plans to tackle.
"It's just amazing that change happened so quickly and it's because of everyone that's here," said Kathleen Holderied, a former teacher.
Holderied was a teacher in King William County for six years but had to give it up because she couldn’t financially support herself.
“I actually tried transferring schools and tried raising my salary different ways and it took four years to finally pull the trigger to get out,” she said.
Recently Virginia fell behind the state of Mississippi when it comes to K-12 funding. It’s a notion the crowd was outraged about.
“We are the 12th wealthiest state in the United States of America,” said Richmond Mayor Levar Stone. “There is no way, no reason we should be falling behind Mississippi.”
“We’re 34th in the nation for teacher salaries; $9,200 dollars below the national average in teacher salaries,” Livingston added.
The Virginia Educators United grassroots campaign marched to the capitol from Monroe Park Monday morning.
The group along with the VEA are using the hashtag #Red4Ed to help spread its message on social media.
“Legislators will hear the roars of loud and proud educators from across the Commonwealth standing up, speaking out, and demanding change,” VEA posted on Facebook this weekend.
The mission is to continue to fight for salary increases, for more money for schools, but also for more counselors so they can focus on giving students the help they truly need.
“I was in a building of 2,400 kids; a large disadvantaged population, large special ed population and had a case load of 450+,” Huddle said.
Instead of focusing on the students, Huddle said she was pulled into administrative duties.
“Public education is the one institution that impacts every single citizen in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Livingston said.
These groups don’t plan on backing down from legislators.
“You say you care about kids, I ask where is your evidence?” said VA Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson. “Because if you ask the thousands of teachers out there you would get a big giant 'F'!”