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Virginia teachers, who have lifted Virginia public schools to a ranking of 4th best in the nation (according to Education Week), have every reason to be upset with new laws coming out of Richmond that make it harder for them to deliver quality instruction.

The real upset is not being directed at the Virginia Education Association, it is being directed at the politicians — including Gov. Bob McDonnell and many of those in the General Assembly — who consistently ignore the real challenges facing public schools and, instead, promote misguided “solutions” that fit their ideology.

Students, parents and teachers care about whether we’ll have a highly qualified teacher and up-to-date materials in every classroom. They want manageable class sizes. The state is an essential partner in providing the funding to make that possible. But Virginia has slipped to 38th in the nation in state aid for K-12 schools, per-pupil. Since 2009, the state has cut its support for K-12 schools 20 percent per-pupil in inflation-adjusted dollars, and this governor did little to reverse the trend. Instead he trotted out a few gimmicks — grade schools on an A-F scale, have the state “take over” a few low-achieving schools — while ignoring the very real challenges facing educators.

The VEA has indeed heard from many members who are upset, and their anger goes back a few years.

They are upset because many politicians ignore the great things they are doing, and the great results they are getting, and blame them for every perceived “failing” of schools.

They are upset because they got into teaching to help kids reach their potential, but they’re spending more time on paperwork and burdensome new processes that take time away from teaching, lesson planning, grading and communicating with parents.

They are upset because they are less able to support or contribute to their family’s bottom-line budget, because their paychecks are not even keeping pace with the cost of living and their retirement benefits are under attack. Virginia teachers earn $6,500 below the national average in salary — a fact that should worry everyone who cares about attracting the best and brightest college graduates into teaching.

Teachers, school support professionals, parents and others in Fairfax should know that the VEA is dedicated to great public schools for every child. We will continue to fight to make sure Virginia students have the best opportunities we can afford them.

Meg Gruber

President, Virginia Education Association