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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.