Virginia teachers are calling for a day of mourning Friday to protest what they consider an assault on public education. Thursday in Richmond, the Virginia Education Association, the Virginia PTA, and groups representing local governments assailed cuts in funding, and other legislation they say will drive good teachers from the public school systems across the state.
"What is the message we are sending teacher candidates in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and other states," asked Virginia Education Association President Kitty Boitnott. "Come to Virginia: earn less, do more and go without job security? That is a recipe for disaster."
Speaking at a Thursday morning news conference in Richmond, Boitnott said a downward spiral in school funding is having an impact in every classroom across the Commonwealth.
Per-pupil spending continues to fall, class sizes are increasing and localities are cutting important programs, she says, to deal with the gap in funding.
"The message that legislators seem to be getting," Boitnott said in an interview, "is you're doing just fine while we slash and burn your budget, so we'll just continue to slash and burn your budget."
With the House and Senate budget proposals coming in the next few days, House Majority Leader Kirk Cox explained the education proposals lawmakers will see next week.
"We have taken what I think is a good budget," Cox said on the floor of the House Thursday afternoon, "we're going to make it a very good budget."
Given the state's continuing economic challenges, he says it's a good plan.
"There is around 540 millon dollars additional funding for public education," Cox said in an interview. "I think that's a very good effort balancing that with other obligations, transportation, health care, etc. It's a very balanced budget which treats K-12 well."
The VEA is planning a silent protest on a day leaders have dubbed Black Friday.
They expect thousands of teachers to wear black, to protest what they describe as a lack of commitment to public education in Virginia.