Home 2019 Elections Dick Saslaw Just Cost Public School Teachers A Pay Raise

Dick Saslaw Just Cost Public School Teachers A Pay Raise

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by David Jonas

I’ve been trying my best to sound the alarm over the ongoing disaster that is Dick Saslaw’s political leadership these days. After all, it’s not hard to show that he’s bad on ethics, that he has openly lied to constituents about his Dominion bill, or that he’s in the pocket of payday lenders.

But I get the sense that a lot of people think it’s just on these few issues he strays from core Democratic values. After all, it’s a big tent, and even if Saslaw is bad on these things, he at least makes it up in other departments, right?

Well, you should disabuse yourself of that viewpoint if you still have it, because Dick Saslaw’s failed leadership has cost Democrats another huge priority: raising teacher pay.

On Thursday, Dick Saslaw voted with the Republicans to strip teacher pay raises from the budget and cajoled fellow senior Democratic Senators Dance and Howell to join him. Had they held the line, the teacher pay raises would have been saved on a 20-20 vote, as vulnerable Republican Senator Glen Sturtevant voted with the Democrats. Instead, the Republicans won on a 23-17 vote and the pay raises died.

How did this happen? On Thursday, Senate Republicans voted in unison to reject the bipartisan Medicaid expansion framework passed by the House. Despite what you might have heard from Republican leaders acting in intellectual bad faith, Medicaid expansion actually clears up MORE MONEY for the rest of the budget, as the federal government (90% of total tab) and a hospital assessment (10% of total tab) pay for things that Virginia’s budget wouldn’t need to cover anymore.

See this chart for example.

Thus, we actually had EXTRA money in the budget to put towards things like teacher raises. It wasn’t much, but I know plenty of teachers in Northern Virginia who wouldn’t sneeze at a 2% raise. Teacher pay is already well below the national average.

As a result, Senate Republicans on Thursday had to scramble to find hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to make the budget balance. One item proposed by Republican Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (whose own leadership eclipses even Dick Saslaw’s for unethical behavior), was to cancel a proposed teacher pay raise in 2019.

Well, obviously, no Democrat in their right mind would vote for this, right? If the Republicans want to balance their budget after voting down Medicaid expansion dollars, they can gore one of their own oxen, right?

Well, taking such a big vote against teachers was too much for vulnerable Republican Senator Glen Sturtevant, who voted with the Democrats. That normally would have made it 20-20, and it would have failed on a tie.

At least, that’s what would have happened had it not been for Dick Saslaw.

Instead, Saslaw voted with the Republicans and the amendment to strip teachers of a pay raise that barely kept up with inflation was agreed to 23-17.

That’s right: Dick Saslaw voted against teacher pay raises and got nothing for it.

I’m hoping there’s a better explanation for this, as budget procedure can get pretty tricky, but I’m certainly not seeing it. After all, Saslaw had the foresight to vote against similar cuts that day for state employees and cuts to mental health funding.

Pardon my French, but what the fuck?

Why is Dick Saslaw spending time pressuring fellow Democrats to cut teacher pay when there are five vulnerable Republican Senators representing districts that Ralph Northam won who could be wrangled into voting for Medicaid expansion? Democrats with the same margin in the House certainly haven’t had that problem.

At this point, there’s little chance Dick Saslaw doesn’t get primaried in 2019, but I worry your average 35th district Democratic primary voter is going to think Saslaw can’t possibly be as bad as so many constituents and activists are saying. Or, more likely, Saslaw puts $2 million into green-washing his image and gets loyalists to vouch for him that he’s really, truly not a bad leader.

But Dick Saslaw really is that bad. He’s dirty, he sells out his constituents to curry favor with lobbyists who dole out campaign cash, and absolutely worst of all, he costs Democrats all the time by being both ineffective and bizarrely callous with his votes and those he pressures to vote with him.

This is a disaster in the making. This man could be Majority Leader in 2019. I just hope enough people hear about his failed leadership before it’s too late.

Lord knows we’ve been warned.

David T.S. Jonas—a constituent born and raised in Virginia’s 35th district—can be reached at DavidTSJonas@gmail.com.

  • It’s mind boggling to me that anyone wouldn’t get how awful $a$law is, but regardless, it’s long past time for him to go…

  • Glen Bayless

    Agreed…wish I were in his district to vote against him

  • Rees Shearer

    David Jonas, why don’t you run in a primary against him? If not you, then who?

    • David TSJ

      I’m seriously considering it, Rees.

      • GailGD

        You’ll have to move here first, then make yourself known to FFX Dems. About 100 people are in line ahead of you.

  • Nancy Trainer

    Lowkell, I appreciate your hard work covering Dick Saslaw’s terrible representation of his constituents. As a longtime education advocate, I urge you to examine Saslaw’s record successfully blocking the Kings’ Dominion Law repeal from ever reaching the Senate floor. These bills annually pass the House on a bipartisan basis, usually by huge margins. (There were two such bills that passed this year, 76-22 and 75-24.) But Saslaw continues to work against Virginia’s students by killing this bill in committee. A Virginia and National High School principal of the year testified about the importance of removing this law a few years ago; that principal worked at a high school in Dick Saslaw’s district. I can’t tell you whom Dick Saslaw works for, other than himself. He certainly doesn’t represent his constituents.

    • Thanks Nancy. This post is actually by David Jonas, who is thinking about primarying $a$law. If he does, it will be richly deserved, that’s for sure. Or maybe Dick will retire first? Either way, he’s gotta go.

    • David TSJ

      I didn’t know Saslaw was so instrumental in blocking repeal of the King’s Dominion law. I will dig deeper into that one as well. Thank you for the valuable background information!

  • heatherkeppler

    I shared this post on FaceBook and there were a crush of people who love Saslaw and defended him, so I reached out to the Saslaw camp to find out why he voted this way and here was their response:

    Dick and Janet actually got $10 million back for GMU back into the Ed budget which had taken out a total of $14 million Pay raise for scheduled for teachers until is not til Dec . .2019 which gives them time to reinstate in budget. They then had to agree to the compromise on the Ed budget to get any back at all. More details but this is the birds eye view. Remember the Senate is still majority republican. They may even be able to do something in conf comm. before that. Also, don’t forget that the Senate just voted against Medicaid expansion when the house supported it! Pay raise will be back in by next January. Two of the other 5 Dems on the Finance committee also voted with him. The states budget has to be balanced which means someone else would have gotten cut. Since the raise wasn’t scheduled until 2019 he has the chance to get it back into the budget if the Senate flips.

    I think this is a reasonable response. I would like to hear any counter points to this. The way the article is misleading in my opinion without explaining why they voted the way they did first and then arguing as to why you disagree with this.

    • David TSJ

      This is good context. Thank you for providing. I think it still raises a lot of questions about why teachers are the ones to be put at risk (and why pretty much every other Democrat voted against it), but I will consider updating the article to reflect this. Mostly, I wish the Senators would be proactive in communicating with constituents like me so that I don’t have to infer the worst.

  • GailGD

    Oh FFS – David Jonas wants to primary Saslaw? Good luck with that. 42% of the voters in that district that voted in the gubernatorial primary are OVER 60. Saslaw has a ton of money and he has publicly stated that he’s only going to serve one more term. Use his money to elect Dems in pick up districts and when Saslaw retires after one more term, every body and their dog will be running for that seat and Jonas won’t stand a chance. If Jonas or anyone else effs up our chances of picking up some seats next year to take over the GA, I will punch him in the balls.

    • Threatening physical violence to someone is bannable. Stop it immediately or you’re outta here.

      • GailGD

        It was rhetorical and you know that Lowell

    • The problem, Gail, is that Dick Saslaw can still do immeasurable damage in one more term to Virginia and our party both. This is not the first time he has screwed up and badly. And I mean, not just corrupt, but he’s actually incompetent. He’s long past his sell by date. I’m not an ageist, but this guy is still living in 1979 when he was senate leader of a powerful majority, and moderate Republicans kissed his ring. He still actually thinks Tommy Norment is his friend while Norment laughs his ass off at the way he bests Saslaw.

      Because he was asleep at the wheel, in 2014, we lost the Senate majority just as Terry McAuliffe was taking over as governor and trying to get Medicare expansion passed.

      Terry Kilgore, the Tobacco Commission, and Norment conspired to get Phil Puckett to quit the Senate by offering him a job on the commission plus a judgeship for Puckett’s daughter. The Democrats had invested a lot of money to help Puckett hold that seat with the hopes of having a split Senate so Lt. Governor Ralph Northam could break a tie to get the expansion passed in the Senate. But Saslaw had no clue what was going on (it was his job to have his ear to the ground to head this sort of thing off, as he did once before, when Republicans tried to flip Northam earlier – so it’s not like the Repubs never pulled this tactic).

      Here’s what Saslaw’s carelessness cost us:

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/pucketts-senate-exit-undid-mcauliffes-secret-plan-to-pass-medicaid-expansion/2014/11/22/c5edf09e-59f5-11e4-b812-38518ae74c67_story.html?utm_term=.06216d6f343e

      It’s also not the first time Saslaw got bested by their procedural tactics either. Back in the early 2000s, he caused us to lose an abortion rights measure. Although Saslaw is pro-abortion, he allowed a bill to go back to the House for a procedural vote where they were able to kill it. I can’t find the article or blog post about it, but there was a famous picture of him, afterwards, that circulated with him distraught and his face in his hands. I will keep looking for more details about the situation and a link.

      Finally, he’s anti-union, not just moderate but very conservative, even by Virginia standards, and his own district is far more liberal than him. He’s alienated environmentalists. So, if unions (especially the teachers unions) and the environmentalists sit out the race because of him, that’s a good chunk of the base lost. And that could hurt in his district and elsewhere. There’s a lot of upside to running a more competent, more moderate to liberal candidate Saslaw is no moderate, as Mark Warner is. He’s genuinely an old fashioned Blue Dog conservative. That would be fine in a conservative, rural district. But not in the blue district he represents. We can and should do better than that.

      • Yep, among his many other faults, $a$law is a horrible “leader” for Senate Democrats, throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars away for no good reason, making terrible strategic call after terrible strategic call, etc. Get him outta there!

        • Yes, more than ideology, he’s just a piss poor leader even when he’s supposedly on the right side. He’s pro abortion but failed to protect it because he can’t get it through his head that today’s Republicans, including his best buddy Tommy Norment, are not your father’s Republicans. And the “Virginia Way” is mostly a myth, like hoop skirts, Tara, and the antebellum South.

      • Here’s more about the abortion bill he blew. It was actually a bill about hospitals that had nothing to do with abortion. Saslaw allowed it to go back to the House of Delegates, where it was amended with a TRAP law and the Republican Lt. Governor, Bill Bolling broke the tie.

        https://prochoiceva.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/at-the-last-minute-reckless-legislators-restrict-reproductive-choice-in-virginia-by-moving-to-regulate-abortion-providers-as-hospitals/

      • GailGD

        Karen I remember all that, and I’ve certainly had my share of eye rolls at Saslaw, but he’s good on gun violence prevention and repro rights, my two issues, and I just don’t think a nasty primary is good for Dems right now or next year. After we have control, then the new people can step in.

        • All I can say is if you want allies, be a good ally. There’s no Democrat in that district who’s going to be anti-abortion or NRA supported. That’s just not our party in Northern Virginia. But I’m damned tired of Democrats who vote against union interests, especially when our teachers are paid so poorly now. I’ve made no secret about how fed up I am.

          If you want a coalition to get your things passed, you need to work with others on their things too. Like I said, we can do better than Saslaw without sacrificing important rights like reproductive rights. And I’d personally like a candidate not as pro death penalty as Saslaw is too. The only thing that makes him a Dem is abortion and gun control. They’re important. But so are other issues. Should I walk away because I’ll never need an abortion or have a grandkid in a school who is threatened? No. But others shouldn’t walk away because they’re not teachers and don’t need unions or a decent living wage.

          • And I think he’ll lose anyway if pissed off teachers and environmentalists sit it out. Which they might too.

  • beweinstein

    Those
    Those of us that have been around the General Assembly, day to day, year to
    year, know there is a budget process that demands attention to the
    weeds. I know this because I spent thirty two years as a public school
    teacher, am a proud union member and exec board member of my American
    Federation of Teachers (AFT) local. For the past 7 years I have been the
    legislative representative to the General Assembly for the 6400 members
    of the Virginia Federation of Teachers. Delegate Jeion Ward is President of the Hampton Federation of Teachers.

    With respect to your article “Dick Saslaw Just Cost Public School Teachers A
    Pay Raise”. Ill give you credit for your disclaimer. “I’m hoping there’s a better explanation for this, as budget procedure can get pretty tricky, but I’m certainly not seeing it. After all, Saslaw had the foresight to vote against similar cuts that day for state employees and cuts to mental health funding”.

    Unfortunately, by your own acclamation you did not offer much due diligence did you? In doing so it appears your sole objective was to trash the elected Democratic
    Party leader in the Senate. What immediately came to mind was there
    might be for some kind personal notoriety you are seeking, but
    certainly, it’s evident you have a grudge against the Senator.

    Isay “not much due diligence on your part’’, because though there was an
    effort to contact Kathy Burcher, the VEA lobbyist, there was no effort
    by you to contact the other two teacher’s organizations. All of us, VEA,
    Virginia Professional Educators, and AFT have a full time presence at
    the General Assembly. All of us represent the interests of public
    education and approximately 70,000 public school teachers. If you needed
    an explanation, it seems to me you should have asked, or known to ask
    all of us. We are well known entities and no strangers to the
    Democratic Party of Virginia. I will not dare speak for Ms. Burcher
    however I expect you will hear from her.

    You also paint a woefully incomplete and myopic view of the long process to becoming a budget. We are $600 million, a conference committee, and many days away
    from knowing how this budget ends. The SB30 budget amendment you
    referenced in isolation was one vote, one vote of many, in a process of
    become a final budget. Its quite likely there will be no adopted budget
    by the end of session.

    Furthermore, and very unfortunate, was your lack of transparency in recanting the most
    important fact and the one which leads me to believe there was malice
    behind your intent. You failed to mention the other Democrats, Senator
    Howell, Senator Dance, and Senator Barker, who also voted with
    Republicans on the same bill. Neither of them, as with the case of
    Senator Saslaw, have any intent of throwing teachers under the bus.

    Thebudget dance is a long dance Mr. Jonas, and your article not a
    particularly good, helpful, or appropriate use of flame throwing at this
    time.

    So here is where I am: little due diligence on your part, singling out the elected minority leader of the Democratic Party in the Senate perhaps for your own self- serving interests, your self- described inability ‘’to see’ the complete picture, and at least
    one instance of not being forthcoming with essential missing information.

    Senator Saslaw has been around for years. I’ve known him for years. He has been public education and teachers stalwart supporter for years….in the weeds fighter and supporter. His wife, Elenor, served on the Virginia Board of Education, was a VEA
    member, and was in VEA leadership in fact. I can only assume you don’t know very much about Senator Saslaws advocacy in support of public education. Its unfortunate to have seen you needlessly attack a long serving, proven fighter for public schools and teachers.

    I am an avid Blue Virginia reader, and greatly appreciate the work you
    do……when you opt not to trash public education advocates.

    If I can be of any assistance to you in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me.

    Sincerely,

    Barry Weinstein

    legislative representative

    Fairfax, Hampton, and Norfolk Federation of Teachers
    AFT, AFL-CIO

  • beweinstein

    Those of us that have been around the General Assembly, day to day, year to year, know there is a budget process that demands attention to the weeds. I know this because I spent thirty two years as a public school teacher, am a proud union member and exec board member of my American Federation of Teachers (AFT) local. For the past 7 years I have been the legislative representative to the General Assembly for the
    6400 members of the Virginia Federation of Teachers. Delegate Jeion Ward is President of the Hampton Federation of Teachers.

    With respect to your article “Dick Saslaw Just Cost Public School Teachers A
    Pay Raise”. Ill give you credit for your disclaimer. “I’m hoping there’s a better explanation for this, as budget procedure can get pretty tricky, but I’m certainly not seeing it. After all, Saslaw had the foresight to vote against similar cuts that day for state employees and cuts to mental health funding”.

    Unfortunately, by your own acclamation you did not offer much due diligence did you? In doing so it appears your sole objective was to trash the elected Democratic Party leader in the Senate. What immediately came to mind was there might be for some kind personal notoriety you are seeking, but certainly, it’s evident you have a grudge against the Senator.

    I say “not much due diligence on your part’’, because though there was an
    effort to contact Kathy Burcher, the VEA lobbyist, there was no effort by you to contact the other two teacher’s organizations. All of us, VEA,Virginia Professional Educators, and AFT have a full time presence at the General Assembly. All of us represent the interests of public education and approximately 70,000 public school teachers. If you neededan explanation, it seems to me you should have asked, or known to ask
    all of us. We are well known entities and no strangers to the Democratic Party of Virginia. I will not dare speak for Ms. Burcher however I expect you will hear from her.

    You also paint
    a woefully incomplete and myopic view of the long process to becoming a budget. We are $600 million, a conference committee, and many days away from knowing how this budget ends. The SB30 budget amendment you referenced in isolation was one vote, one vote of many, in a process of become a final budget. Its quite likely there will be no adopted budget by the end of session.

    Furthermore, and very
    unfortunate, was your lack of transparency in recanting the most important fact and the one which leads me to believe there was malice behind your intent. You failed to mention the other Democrats, Senator Howell, Senator Dance, and Senator Barker, who also voted with Republicans on the same bill. Neither of them, as with the case of
    Senator Saslaw, have any intent of throwing teachers under the bus.

    The budget dance is a long dance Mr. Jonas, and your article not a particularly good, helpful, or appropriate use of flame throwing at this time.

    So here is where I am: little due diligence on your part, singling out the elected minority leader of the Democratic Party in the Senate perhaps for your own self- serving interests, your self- described inability ‘’to see’ the complete picture, and at least
    one instance of not being forthcoming with essential missing
    information.

    Senator Saslaw has been around for years. I’ve known him for years. He has been public education and teachers stalwart supporter for years….in the weeds fighter and supporter. His wife, Elenor, served on the Virginia Board of Education, was a VEA
    member, and was in VEA leadership in fact. I can only assume you don’t know very much about Senator Saslaws advocacy in support of public education. Its unfortunate to have seen you needlessly attack a long serving, proven fighter for public schools and teachers.

    I am an avid Blue Virginia reader, and greatly appreciate the work you
    do……when you opt not to trash public education advocates.

    Thank you, and I do hope you publish this in its entirety.