Thursday, January 9, 2020

My Testimony Regarding the Governor's Proposed Budget for Education in Virginia

I definitely owe the education blogosphere a post about my post-doc job market experience (hint: it was not good). For now, I will share that I am back in the classroom teaching high school U.S. & Virginia Government to seniors (and getting my butt whooped but in a humbling and valuable way, though), and have been since the start of the 2019-2020 School Year. I  need to write a post about that, too. Good things come to those who wait, right? In the meantime, I have been involved with VEU (Virginia Educators United) because, oh, wait, I am a teacher again, and I heeded their leaders' call to attend the General Assembly's House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees' public hearings to hear feedback on the Governor's budget priorities. The issues with the education funding in the budget are laid out very clearly here in VEU's talking points.

Here's a video of my testimony:

And here's the text from my spoken remarks:

"Good afternoon. My name is Rachel Levy and I am a Virginia public school parent, teacher, writer and activist with a Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy. I live in Ashland, Virginia, I am a member of VEA, Virginia Educators United, the Virginia PTA, and the American Educational Research Association.

The Governor’s budget proposal for education is a step in the right direction, but unfortunately, it’s not sufficient.

I have been a teacher on and off for most of my career. Teaching is the most meaningful, challenging, intellectual, and socially useful work there is. As a teacher and a parent, I have seen the quality of our facilities, the availability of our resources, and teacher retention rates drop significantly since I first stepped into a Virginia public school classroom in 2001 and since my own children first enrolled in them in 2009. Our schools are being held together by a thread--of educators and staff who do so out of a sense of obligation, duty, and service. We have less time, more responsibilities, and fewer resources to do the same job we used to, and there are, understandably, fewer people willing to work unpaid overtime and for diminished salaries and benefits, just to fulfill minimum requirements, because it’s not sustainable or manageable, nor is it fair.

As a state, we will never attract the best and brightest with these working and learning conditions, and with the current salaries and resources It is easy to work a ten-, twelve-, or fifteen-hour day as a teacher—I do this regularly—and still feel that it’s not enough, and to go home feeling like there was so much more you could have done. The best teachers know when their students are being short-changed, and they will leave (and have left and are leaving) rather than continue to experience that feeling of inadequacy day after day.

Adding more to the budget—at least 2 billion more is needed—for education is vital to our economy, to the intellectual, social/emotional development of our children, and to our democracy. Our public schools are our greatest public democratic institution and they are holding on by a thread. As the saying goes: if you think education is expensive, try ignorance.

Thank you for your time and for your service to our Commonwealth."