Teachers rally for better pay, more funding after annual meeting

Hundreds of teachers rallied after the Virginia Education Association's Delegates Assembly in March in Richmond. Members were pushing for more education funding, especially for teacher salaries. (Mechelle Hankerson/ Virginia Mercury)

Hundreds of members of the Virginia Education Association — the state’s de facto teacher’s union — briefly marched around downtown Richmond Friday.

The group was led by a red school bus bearing a banner that said “Fund Our Future,” and was calling attention to new national data that shows Virginia’s average teacher pay is thousands less than the national average.

The National Education Association collects data each year on school attendance, teacher salaries and turnover. The VEA has an early copy of the 2019 report that shows Virginia’s average teacher salary is $9,316 less than the national average, said Tom Allen, spokesperson for the VEA.

The 2018 NEA report is the most recent publicly available report, and shows the average Virginia teacher’s annual salary was $8,611 below the national average.

Dels. Hala Ayala, D-Woodbridge, (front) and Debra Rodman, D- Henrico, attended the Virginia Education Association’s Delegate Assembly in Richmond and marched with hundreds of teachers through a small section of downtown Richmond. (Mechelle Hankerson/The Virginia Mercury)

Gov. Ralph Northam proposed a five percent total teacher pay raise, which was included in the final budget. When Northam unveiled the plan, VEA President Jim Livingston acknowledged the raise still wouldn’t get Virginia to the national average.

“It’s a good start but definitely we could always do better, said Del. Debra Rodman, D-Henrico, who attended the march on Friday. She’s a professor at Randolph-Macon College and knows many educators whose salaries have been stagnant for years.

“We need to make sure that we’re not only supporting (teachers) in salaries but continuing to get them more counselors and more support in general,” she said. “All of it together is what’s really going to help forward our education system.”

Rodman was joined by several other lawmakers, including Democratic Dels. Hala Ayala and Jennifer Carroll Foy of Woodbridge; Lamont Bagby and Schuyler VanValkenburg of Henrico; Roslyn Tyler, Sussex, Cia Price, Newport News, and Republican Del. Bob Thomas from Stafford.

Sen. Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg, also attended.