On Saturday, April 7, United States Senator Tim Kaine and former Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton visited the Fairfax Education Association for a roundtable discussion on public education with VEA members, parents and advocates from around Northern Virginia. The Senator and former Secretary shared their thoughts on the current state of public education in Virginia and nationwide and were eager to engage in discussion with the teachers and parents in attendance.
Some of the topics discussed include early childhood education, the fight against defunding Title I, the draining of funds for private school vouchers, the nationwide teacher shortage, higher education affordability, salaries, working conditions, and arming teachers with weapons at school.
Senator Kaine shared his belief that the teacher strikes that are rising up in West Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma and Kentucky are a result of educators feeling that they have been dealt the last straw. He cited deteriorating schools, lack of supplies, shortage of funding and an attack on the teaching profession as some of the issues causing growing frustration among professionals. Arming teachers with assault weapons as a solution to school violence is what Senator Kaine called “the last straw” that is driving teachers to strike.
FEA-Retired member, Cheryl Binkley, added that workplace bullying by administrators is also a leading factor in teachers leaving the profession. Prince William County teacher and PWEA member, Brandi Provenzano, gave specific examples of teachers who have been bullied by a principal and the effects of bullying on morale and job security. FCPS teacher, Dan Hale, pointed out that criticism towards teachers on strike is unfair because teachers are not walking out on students but rather they are walking out FOR students.
FCPS Music teacher and FEA member, Lisa Zargarpur, shared that the workload in special education is especially burdensome and teachers struggle to manage the demands placed on them. Former Secretary Holton shared the process that was used to adopt Portrait of a Graduate under her administration and how it will impact schools across Virginia.
Prince William County Teacher and PWEA member, Maggie Hansford, moved the conversation towards how educators can effect change. She stated that until we have more educators and public education advocates in public office, change will not come as quickly as it is needed. Secretary Holton responded that the educator and parent groups in the room can collectively “move mountains” and that VEA plays a vital role in advocating for students and the teaching profession. Secretary Holton knows that “membership matters” and fully supports VEA in representing and uniting educators across Virginia.