CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Teachers across various Chesterfield County schools, walked out and stood together in unity Tuesday afternoon.
"Any additional revenue that comes to Chesterfield County needs to be redirected to compensation and redirected to put a nurse in every school, period," said Sonia Smith, President of Chesterfield Education Association.
Their rally cry Tuesday was in response to a new $727 million budget proposed by the Chesterfield County School Board. The budget approval is about a $55 million increase from the current operating budget but falls short of meeting all the needs identified earlier in the year.
One which gives a 2 percent salary increase for all staff members, but advocates say it falls short of addressing the teacher pay crisis.
“It’s difficult to say that a $55 million increase is not a win for our students because there are a number of items that support students, teachers, and schools included in the approved budget,” Superintendent Dr. Marv Daugherty said in a press release. “However, we need to do more to support our teachers or I fear they will not be with us for the long term.”
“The School Board has acknowledged, and we have heard that, in addition to meeting state requirements, teacher pay is the No 1 issue moving forward,” he added.
Finch teaches students at Bensley Elementary School and has been teaching for 10 years. She rallied with teachers Tuesday.
“We all are here for our students, and so just having everyone come together, it means a lot," said Finch.
Ultimately, she says she wants their message to be heard by county leaders and lead to an approved budget that supports schools.
"It should be funded and that is not an option, it’s a necessity for our students," Finch added.
Finch said they rallied outside until 1:23 p.m., which she said represents where Chesterfield ranks in Virginia with spending per student.
“That is not enough for our students to be able to succeed and thrive educationally, socially," said Finch. "We have to let them know that we are still here and that this matters to us, each and every day.”
The Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors have the final say in approving the proposed budget. Their next meeting is on March 11.