Through my many conversations with teachers around the state having to have a second job is all too common for teachers. You’d think that we’d pay the people that are educating future generations enough to not have to worry about having second job just to make ends meet. Lack of resources and support from the local and state level cause teachers to have to furnish their classrooms with their own money. Money which is becoming harder and harder to come across.
Education funding is still 9% behind pre-recession levels in Virginia. The unemployment rate is below 4% but education funding lags behind economic growth. This causes school boards to make extreme decisions every single year. Cutting staff, cutting youth sports, cutting art classes, & closing schools. All of this on top of more school closures because school systems can’t afford to operate at current levels. 40 students per classroom shouldn’t be the new normal in Virginia or anywhere in this country. Where’s all this education lottery money going? Seems like the bigger the jackpots get the bigger school systems deficits become.
Increased class sizes and crumbling schools affect the poor, black, and brown people the most. This unnecessary stress at school creates a need for more counselors for students. Unfortunately, a lack of counselors increases the number of students one counselor has to be responsible for. In Virginia, it’s 425 students per counselor making quality advisement nearly impossible. The Governor has proposed that teacher pay be increased by 5%. On top that a proposal to hire more school counselors and to at least restore K-12 funding to pre 2008 recession levels. It’s up to the Republican-controlled General Assembly to pass this budget. Given that they have voted down an increase in the minimum wage and equal rights for women, education funding increases may not go far. Which is one of many reasons why they have to be voted out in 2019.
Of course, we can always go further. How about a minimum salary for teachers starting at $50,000 to improve retention rates and spark more interest in the profession. How about instead of giving Amazon $2 Billion dollars and 30 years of tax incentives we put that money towards upgrading schools instead. How about we fund all schools equally so the richest and poorest children receive the same high-quality education. This is all a matter of political will to invest in what’s most important. We can’t continue to have unequal education in regards to pay and funding. Enough is enough with always putting the education of our children on the chopping block while politicians continue to put wealthy corporations above school systems. Teachers have every right to strike for better working conditions and it’s up to us to join them in order to finally make change happen for them and our children.