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Education advocates to Virginia lawmakers: ‘Pay teachers more’

"We're not well funded and we need to be... It's just that simple."
Posted at 10:28 PM, Feb 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-16 22:28:45-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- There was rally cry from teachers and education advocates outside the Pochantas Building in Downtown Richmond Sunday afternoon as lawmakers begin to hammer out a two-year and more than $135 billion state budget.

Brigette Newburry, who has been teaching in Richmond for more than 30 years, had strong words for lawmakers and administrators.

"There are lights that are missing in my classroom," Newburry said. "There are so many things wrong with the building since I'm an art teacher"

Newburry is one of scores of people urging state leaders to reinvest in public schools.

"We're not well funded and we need to be..., " she said. "It's just that simple -- pay teachers more."

Richmond high school student Mely Kale came to support her teachers/

"I feel like if we're the ones that aren't being funded," Kale said. "It's effecting us the most, then we should be out here fighting for what we want."

Del. Delores McQuinn (D-Richmond) said lawmakers should "focus additional funds on enhanced teacher compensation" and offer "different support to our diverse student population."

Both the House and Senate budget negotiators rolled out their public education proposals Sunday. Both budgets would fully support new standards of quality for K through 12 and increase direct aid to students above the governor's budget proposal.

Both proposals include teacher pay raises. However, the House plan includes a 2 percent raise at the start of the next two years, while the Senate version gives a 4 percent increase in the second year and 3 percent bonus in the first year for teachers.

Additionally, Gov. Ralph Northam's proposal only included a 3 percent raise for teachers in the second year of the budget.

Education advocate Dr. Brionna Nomi said lawmakers needs to act because Virginia is losing teacher talent.

"I'm disappointed," Nomi said."I mean we've talked about how important it is to recruit and retain teachers, high quality educators in Virginia, and this type of underinvestment in teachers is not going to get it done."

The House and Senate, which will continue tweaking their proposed budgets over the next few weeks. must reconcile their differences before the legislative session ends in early March.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.