(Feb. 7, 2018)
Catherine Read met with Joanne Walton and Tony Bennett Shivers, co-founders of the Virginia Education Funding Coalition (VEFC), a unified non-partisan voice advocating for fully funding public education in Virginia. The mission of the VEFC is to ensure that the commonwealth of Virginia adequately invests in its public education system, so that all students have access to a high quality education with well-paid and well-trained teachers.
Currently, Virginia is ranked 38th in the nation in per pupil state funding and ranked 29th overall for average salary for K-12 teachers. The state is also facing a deficit of 1000 teachers. As baby boomers retire, Virginia will continue to face a shortage of teachers, and as a commonwealth we will be facing a crisis situation. The best indicator of student success is having effective teachers in the classroom. VEFC advocates for stronger recruiting, support and training of our teacher workforce, and strives to bring people together across the commonwealth to advocate for stronger support for public education.
Walton notes that VEFC aims to build a coalition of teachers, parents, businesses and community leaders who are understand the critical relationship between well-educated children, strong local communities and the future workforce. The goal of VEFC is to create a platform for everyone to come together to advocate before the Virginia General Assembly to improve the LCI (Local Composite Index) so that all Virginia counties and school districts receive adequate funding based on their enrollment needs. Additionally, VEFC supports passage of legislation giving Virginia counties and school districts the authority to diversify and raise revenue on a local basis.
Shivers cites a study by the Georgetown University Center for Education Workforce that indicates there will be 55 million job openings by 2020, 34 million of those will be new jobs and 31 million will be posts vacated by retiring baby boomers. He believes it is imperative for Virginia to adequately invest in educating our children today for the workforce of the future. It is estimated that 65% of the jobs by 2020 will require post secondary training. He shared that learning in the 21st century needs to be individualized and personal, where we can teach children to think critically and problem solve so they can be prepared to step into jobs that do not even exist today. In order to do this, we need to adequately fund our schools and invest in our children and teachers.
Shivers and Walton invite all who are passionate about improving education in Virginia to join their coalition. They currently have an online petition asking Governor Ralph Northam and the Virginia General Assembly to increase funding for public education, which has not been increased in 10 years. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter (@VAEdFunding) and by using the hashtag #FundVaSchools.