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Thousands expected at General Assembly education rally; ‘We’re struggling,’ teacher says

Posted at 9:37 PM, Jan 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-26 21:40:42-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Teachers and advocates gathered at Studio Two Three Sunday to get ready for the “Fund Our Future” rally Monday at Capitol Square.

Thousands are expected at the capitol as the Virginia Education Association (VEA) asks lawmakers for addition funding of public education.

Teachers like Christine Melendez said every penny could help.

"We’re struggling and we need help," Melendez said. "The reason we fight for higher salaries isn’t because we want to live a luxurious life, or that we want to buy nice things, it’s just that we are tired from working two, three jobs after school."

According to the VEA, Virginia is currently ranked 40th in the per-pupil state support for public education.

That is something advocates like Deanna Fierro, who has been an educator for nine years, believe needs to change.

"What would really be bold and historic would be if we at least saw a 20 percent increase in teacher salary," Fierro said. "Which would just get us to the bare minimum at the national average of other educators in different states."

Teachers said their students face a lot more challenges and need more support than ever before.

"Every year, the state and the Department of Education is asking for more improvements, but there is not always funding aligned with what they are asking from us," Fierro said.

As a result, teachers, advocates, parents and students plan to show lawmakers how important education funding.

More than 700 Richmond Public Schools are expected to attend, which is why RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras cancelled classes for the distinct Monday.

Kamras made the announcement last Sunday.

"I recognize doing so will create an unexpected childcare burden for our working families," Kamras said. "On behalf of RPS, I sincerely apologize for this."

Because of the unexpected closure of the district's schools, nutrition teams prepared “to-go” bags for students to take home Friday for the weekend.

Monday’s rally is scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. at the Bell Tower on Capitol Grounds.

Education supporters said they will be wearing red and posting online using the hashtag: #RedforEd.

"We’re not trying to ruffle feathers, we want people to value education," Melendez said. "To value the fact that students need a lot more support and we’re kind of suffering from lack of support in education."