“It’s Time to Fund Our Future!”

Teachers march to Richmond, demanding change

photo from FauquierNow.com
Attending the rally in Richmondr, FCPS1 Schools Superintendent Dr. David Jeck gives a speech to the sea of educators

Superintendent Dr. David Jeck has asked for $8.8 million in additional funds to help keep teachers and support staff in Fauquier County. If approved, teachers will receive pay raises of 2-14 percent (depending on years of experience and steps). School nurses, instructional aides, assistant principals and principals will also receive pay increases if this budget is passed.

The announcement came just a few weeks after the teacher march in Richmond. On Jan. 29, approximately 3,000 people marched to the state capital demanding the state to do a better job of funding public schools. Approximately 200 of those people were from Fauquier County.

Special Education teacher Bo Pittman attended the march. “The sense of camaraderie is nice to see because as teachers we often feel isolated in the problems that we are facing,” Pittman said. “It was nice to see teachers from around the state and realize that people were actually passionate about the same things, that we aren’t facing these issues alone. Seeing yourself represented at a larger scale and seeing all these teachers working together is really uplifting.”

Jeck was invited to speak at the event.

“I wanted to be there to support our teachers and to send a message to the General Assemblies that we need their help,” Jeck explained. “The localities can’t fix this problem by themselves.”

Virginia ranks 34 nationally in teacher pay, and Jeck believes the state is partially to blame.

“This has occurred primarily because state funding levels have not been adequate in terms of keeping pace with the rest of the country,” Jeck said. “I was graciously invited to speak by the VEA…so I guess my motivation is to help out the VEA.”

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, who proposed a 5 percent pay increase for teachers back in December, attended the event. The Governor’s proposal introduced $88 million that would be used to boost a 3 percent pay raise for teachers to 5 percent.

Teacher pay in VA is approximately $9,000 below the national average.

“Keep in mind that Virginia is the 7th wealthiest state in the nation, and the fact that we are paying educators about $9,000 under the national average is ridiculous,” Jeck said. “It’s practically criminal to do this to educators.”

Fauquier County Public Schools had a record number of educators leave the county last year. Approximatly 120 teachers left, several of those teachers were from Kettle Run. “Kettle Run is in a really bad spot,” Jeck said. “Just being so close to Prince William County Schools and Fairfax County Schools, you lose teachers every time they open a new school, due to the pay difference.”

A teacher, who wished to remain anonymous, said that pay is not the only reason teachers leave, but it is a huge factor. “We lose new, young teachers to counties like Fairfax and Prince William because of the salary differences.,” the teacher said. “Young, new teachers do not stay in the profession due to little pay. They expected to be compensated more for a crucial job. This area is expensive to live, just in general, but living on a teacher salary is not an option for some. They need to be able to provide for themselves and their families.”

Out of 132 school divisions in the state, Fauquier County ranks close to the bottom when it comes to teacher pay. The study, conducted by the VA General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, places Fauquier County at 127 out of 132.

“This is where we need to compete with these counties to fight for our teachers,” Jeck said. “We had a 12 percent teacher turnover last year, and our numbers are usually around the 6 percent mark. It is crazy that is increasing at such a quick rate. We have to do something about this. We can’t just stop pushing or halting our beliefs that this will work.”

The school board conducted a public hearing on the proposed budget on Monday, Feb. 25, at Fauquier High School. Following that, the county supervisors and school board will hold a joint work session on the budget on March 14. The last step will be the board of supervisors adopting the county budget on March 21.