Protecting the Quality and Reputation of Our Schools

The Virginia Beach School Board held a public hearing on their proposed budget and capital improvement program resolutions on March 3rd, 2015. The budget resolution, which the board approved 9-2 to send to the Virginia Beach City Manager included a balanced budget of $796 million which increased class sizes at all levels by one student. The resolution also requested an additional $20.3 million to help fund a 3.66% raise for employees in addition to the 1.34% included in the balanced budget, equity adjustments in the unified pay scale, and a reduction in the reliance on one-time funds to close budget deficits.

VBEA President Trenace Riggs spoke during the budget hearing. The video and transcript of her speech is below.

Good evening Chairman Edwards, Vice Chairwoman Anderson, members of the school board, and Dr. Spence. My name is Trenace Riggs, as you know, and I am the President of the Virginia Beach Education Association.

I am here this evening to commend the board, every one of you, and administration for your efforts in balancing a budget during this time of continued underfunding of our schools.

The budget recently passed by the General Assembly, as we well know, doesn’t come close to restoring the funding that Virginia Beach, and localities throughout Virginia, has lost since 2008.

This why the Virginia Education Association is joining forces with the Virginia PTA to organize a rally in Richmond on April the 18th to ask the General Assembly to “Put Kids First” and provide the funding to ensure that every single child has access to a high-quality public education.

It’s also why, with some reservation, the Virginia Beach Education Association supports the balanced budget on the agenda this evening.

While we do not support class size increases, in my visits to schools throughout Virginia Beach, I have asked what teachers would prefer if they had to choose: a significant pay raise, or lower class sizes. The answer has been almost unanimous. Teachers need a significant raise.

If it is not possible to provide for raises and keep class sizes from increasing, then compensation should be the priority now.

It is time for you to work with city council to provide better compensation to your employees.

I regularly hear from our members, and others, who compare their pay stubs from six years ago to their current pay stubs, to find they are taking home less money today than they did before. This is not acceptable if our goal is to attract the top talent to our schools and keep them here.

Asking for additional funding in order to provide a raise that employees will actually benefit from is the right thing to do, and now is the time to do it.

I taught in Virginia Beach for over 35 years, so I know what a great school system we have. I know our reputation has been developed to be one of the greatest in the nation. I believe the public values our schools. I also believe that the success of our schools is made possible by the talent, experience, and dedication of the people who serve our students. It is critical that you invest in them, and reward them for their dedication. The quality and reputation of our schools depend on you doing so.

This is the message that the Virginia Beach Education Association will be sharing with city council as they consider your request for additional funding: We must protect the quality and reputation of our schools.

Thank you so much.