Saturday, January 23, 2021
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GOP Assault on the Teaching Profession

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"Teachers matter.  They deserve our support.  And I want to make sure that we are constantly lifting up how important teachers are to making sure...this country succeeds." - President Barack Obama

Anyone tracking bills affecting teachers introduced in this session of the General Assembly quickly discovers that the GOP in Virginia doesn't agree with the President's premise that teachers "deserve our support." Instead, they've declared war.

Greg Habeeb (R-Salem) and Ralph Smith (R-Roanoke) introduced bills that would let school divisions wait until June 15 to inform people that they have no job the coming August. Presently, teachers have to be notified by April 15, giving them time to seek another teaching position. Chris Stolle (R-Virginia Beach) has a bill allowing any local school board to switch all its employees to a defined contribution retirement, effectively destroying the Virginia Retirement System for future teachers in that locality. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) sponsored a bill allowing public charter schools to opt out of VRS and have up to 50% of their teachers unlicensed by the state.

Perhaps the worst bill before the Assembly is Dickie Bell's (R-Staunton). It would eliminate teacher tenure and the right to a hearing before the school board if a teacher who has attained a continuing contract is summarily fired. It would also change the probationary period for new teachers from three to five years, the time when they can be fired without cause. After that, teachers would be given three-year contracts for the rest of their career, meaning that in times of tight budgets many school boards would get rid of their most expensive (i.e., most experienced) teachers.

These GOP bills are meant to take away the very things that make teaching an attractive option for college graduates.  

McDonnell Offers Education a Rotten Apple

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Bob McDonnell has announced his educational priorities for the upcoming General Assembly session, and if he gets his way, teachers and students will be big losers. The governor already has proposed a budget that takes money away from education and shovels it into road maintenance. Now, he is proposing doing away with teacher tenure, meaning that all teachers - no matter how competent or experienced - would have to prove every year that they deserved a job.

Adding insult to injury, McDonnell also wants to build upon his ALEC-drafted legislation that passed last year creating "virtual schools" in Virginia. ALEC is a corporate-run and financed group that writes model legislation for state politicians who are beholden to those corporations for contributions and junkets. HB 1388 and SB 738, which were introduced at McDonnell's request and signed into law, encourages school divisions to contract with private, for-profit virtual school companies and replace teachers with computer programs for student instruction. The model for that law came from ALEC's educational task force, which just happens to be headed by a corporation that sells virtual school programs.

It's easy to summarize Bob McDonnell's anti-public-education program. He believes in raiding education funding, attacking teachers by eliminating tenure protection, and shifting state education dollars to untested charter schools and for-profit virtual school companies as much as possible.