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HCEA seeks higher teacher pay
Friday, January 11, 2013
By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer
The president of the Henry County Education Association (HCEA) asked for higher pay for educators Thursday night at the county school board’s public hearing to seek input on fiscal 2014 budget priorities.
Dorothy Carter read a statement, saying: “Today, The Washington Examiner released data released by the Education Week Report Card for 2013. Virginia schools ranked No. 4 in the nation. In addition, according to U.S. News & World Report, Henry County high schools are 96 percent proficient in reading and 94 percent proficient in geometry. Henry County public school teachers are doing their job of educating our youth and doing a fine job.
“This year, Gov. (Bob) McDonnell has decided after (several) years of no state raises that teachers should receive a 2 percent raise if they relinquish some of their due process rights. The VEA (Virginia Education Association) position about his raise proposal is that ‘... a 2 percent raise is far too little for teachers. ... VEA supports a 4 percent increase. We live in the eighth wealthiest state but our teacher salary lags 12.5 percent behind the national average.’”
Carter said the VEA criticized the governor for the method he employed to give the raise. He proposed providing the state share of the 2 percent raise and would require localities to put up their share in a local match to access the state funding, she said.
“We don’t think that’s fair to localities,” she said. “In addition, we do not advocate that teachers need to relinquish their rights in the final grievance process. This process is rarely used. Even so, it is the final protection against nepotism. And the money localities need should not have to be held hostage to that condition.”
The HCEA will take this message to this area’s legislators on Lobby Day Jan. 27 as HCEA advocates for students, teachers and Henry County, Carter said.
“As we fight for what our students need, I hope you also realize we are fighting for the funding Henry County Schools needs,” she added.
“Our teachers need a raise,” Carter said. “Yes, last year they did get a raise to offset the change in VRS (Virginia Retirement System), yet there was still a cut in take-home pay because of increased taxes.”
“Many of our teachers support more than their immediate families,” Carter said. “Many of our teachers help to purchase classroom supplies for needy students. Their last raise, while decent, has been lost in the continuing rise in the cost of living. In spite of that, our teachers are working continuously to improve their teaching practices because we care about the students.”
According to the Office of the Governor’s website, McDonnell’s proposed budget released last month includes a 2 percent pay increase for all funded Standards of Quality (SOQ) positions. That raise is contingent on passage of the Educator Fairness Act, which would extend the probationary window for teachers from three to five years, provide for a definition of incompetence to include one or more unsatisfactory performance evaluations, and define the relationship between the evaluation and the contract. It also would streamline the grievance procedure and allow for an expedited decision to inform the teacher of the final outcome.
SOQ positions include teachers, guidance counselors, librarians, instructional aides, principals and assistant principals. Participation in the raises is optional but requires a local match to receive the state funding, according to the Office of the Governor.
Jared Cotton, superintendent of Henry County Schools, said the school division employs more than the SOQ-funded positions, and it would not be good to give raises to some educators but not all.
Cotton reminded the school board of a number of upcoming meetings pertaining to the development of the budget. One is a superintendent’s roundtable meeting, open to the public, at 4:15 p.m. Jan. 15 at Laurel Park Middle School. Also, fiscal 2014 budget feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
School board member Curtis Millner of the Iriswood District asked if the school division is keeping up with what other nearby school divisions are doing on salaries so Henry County Schools can remain competitive. Cotton said this school division regularly does that.
Cotton also said the 5 percent increase that was given last year to offset the change in VRS has helped the division attract educators.
School board members Francis Zehr of the Ridgeway District and Rudy Law of the Blackberry District did not attend the meeting.