Virginia Educators Respond to Gillespie Education Proposal

Statement by VEA President Jim Livingston on Gillespie Education Proposal:

Ed Gillespie’s education plan is little more than an attempt to import the flawed Betsy DeVos-Donald Trump education agenda of vouchers into the Commonwealth’s public schools. While we are glad to see Mr. Gillespie come on board with Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam on issues like reforming the SOLs, the Children’s Cabinet, and the need for listening to educators, the rest of his plan would undoubtedly bring harm to many Virginia students and families.

Virginia students deserve a Governor who believes in providing all children a high-quality public education, regardless of where they live or their socioeconomic status. Instead, Ed Gillespie offers a plan scarce on details and heavy on ideology, while ignoring the very real rollback of support for public schools that affect Virginia students every day:

  • State support for public schools has not yet recovered from the Great Recession, with per-pupil funding still nearly 11% less than 2009 levels
  • Virginia schools are suffering from more than 4,000 teacher vacancies, and too many classrooms are staffed by long-term substitutes and instructors lacking full credentials
  • Teacher salaries have fallen to a rank of 32nd in the nation and are now $7900 below the national average, threatening our ability to recruit and retain the very best teachers
  • The number of students living in households below the poverty line is growing, as is the percentage of students requiring special education or language services

Ed Gillespie doesn’t present any plan to address these facts. Instead, he’d shift scarce public dollars to private organizations that have proven to be weak on accountability and to produce low student achievement, as seen in other state voucher and unregulated charter programs.

Virginia citizens, in poll after poll, state that public schools need greater support to meet the challenges facing our students. Ed Gillespie’s response is to carry the DeVos-Trump agenda across the Potomac, to the detriment of our kids. Virginians should reject this catastrophe-in-the-making.

Jim Livingston, a middle school math teacher in the Prince William public schools, is president of the Virginia Education Association, which represents more than 50,000 educators across the Commonwealth.