RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Education advocates warn that Virginia is facing a teacher crisis. The Virginia Education Association claims there are hundreds of unfilled positions and are in desperate need of a salary increase.
Virginia teachers converge on the State Capitol on Monday. They're pushing lawmakers to include a pay raise in the budget. Teachers lost out on a 3-percent pay raise from the state due to a shortfall.
According to a letter from the Virginia Education Association, there are 800 unfilled teaching positions in Virginia and they say pay has much to do with it.
Many teachers say they're disappointed with the lack of support, so dozens of teachers crowded the General Assembly building, including Sonia Smith who teaches at Meadowbrook High School in Chesterfield.
"I feel like if I'm not here advocating for my students, then I'm truly not being an effective educator," she said.
These teachers are not just advocating for their students, but also for themselves. The Virginia Education Association says the average salary for a teacher in the Commonwealth is $7,230 below the national average.
The concerns are laid out in a letter given to State Senators Tommy Norment and Emmet Hanger and Delegate Chris Jones It says there have been only two state-supported salary increases in the last 10 years, not enough to keep teachers.
"Paycheck by paycheck, you're barely seeing the price of a cup of coffee at Starbucks as an increase," says Smith.
Larger localities, like Chesterfield, have been able to give their teachers raises by shifting their budgets. That's not possible in smaller counties, and teachers want state support.
"The problem we have now is that the locals, they're spent," says Smith. "They don't have anything else to provide to bridge the gap that the state is not providing. The state needs to man up."
Education advocates say they're seeing a critical need for more teachers in almost every subject, including math, science, English, social studies and the elementary grades.
The VEA wants a 2-percent salary increase. NBC12 reached out to the lawmakers given that letter and have not yet heard back.
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