Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pre-Legislative Dinners Begin Along with Budget and Resolutions Hearings

The past couple of weeks have been such a blur of activity that I can hardly remember everything I have done and everywhere I have been. This week, Meg Gruber, VEA Vice President, and I started our round of the state in conjunction with VEA Director of Government Relations and Research, Robley Jones, and his Assistant, Doris Boitnott for the purpose of gathering input on the budget and resolutions and presenting the VEA's 2010 Legislative Agenda. We were in Hampton on Monday night, Norfolk on Tuesday night, and in NOVA on Thursday night. I would like to thank everyone who turned out for these important events. It's always appreciated when our members take time out of their busy schedules in order to demonstrate their commitment to the association.

I am proud of our Legislative Agenda. We have worked hard to create a balance of issues that are important to all of our members. We address funding, we continue to address parity and the lack of it for our ESP members, and we are committed to opposing legislation that would be detrimental to public schools. We have also come to recognize that we need to prepare to fend off any and all attacks on our Virginia Retirement System (VRS). We are very concerned that the downtown in the economy is going to serve as too great a temptation to our legislators who may see that pot of money as a convenient fund to raid. We at the VEA will not allow that to happen, but our members need to understand the importance of protecting that benefit for the educators of Virginia.

Today, we held our All Committee Day at the Crossings in Glen Allen. We hosted just under 100 of our committee members and staff who convened for the purpose of reviewing their various committee's charges and creating recommendations that will be taken to the VEA Board of Directors for consideration.

We also got an update on the upcoming election. It is only a few weeks away, and I am increasingly concerned that our members are suffering from election fatigue. We worked so hard last year for President Obama, and it has been hard to work up the same kind of enthusiasm this year even though the state election in Virginia in 2009 is a critical one.

It hasn't helped that both campaigns have taken a negative turn. Unfortunately, negative campaigns work which is why candidates use them.

At the VEA we have stuck to the facts, and we are proud of the ads that the VEA sponsored and aired in the Richmond and Tidewater regions. The polls have demonstrated that our ads have been effective, and they have stuck to the facts.

I wish I knew what magic words to use to get our members energized enough to work as hard as they can in these final days. I also wish I could count on everyone going to the polls on November 3 and taking their family, friends, and colleagues with them to vote for Creigh Deeds, Jody Wagner, and Steve Shannon along with our other friends of education.

Somehow our members have got to start making the connection between politics, education policy, and the association's political power. We have talked about it to some degree, but we have a long way to go before we are ready to fully embrace our full potential as a political power player. Our friends and opponents see it...but our own members fail to understand and/or appreciate their own important part in developing the political landscape of Virginia.

Having said that, I urge every individual who is reading this post to volunteer to do something for one or more of our recommended candidates between now and November 3.

Next Saturday, October 17 would be a great place to start. All over Virginia, the VEA will be sponsoring walks for our candidates. In Fairfax, I will be joining Past President and current NEA Executive Director Princess Moss at the Fairfax Education Association building in downtown Fairfax for a rally for Creigh. Others will be convening at different locations around the Commonwealth for walks, canvassing, and drumming up support for our recommended candidates. Please consider participating. It will only take a few hours, and it could be the effort that we need to turn the tide on the polls and tip the advantage toward our recommended candidates.

No matter what you do, please plan to vote for our recommended candidates on November 3. For Governor, we recommend Creigh Deeds. For Lt. Governor, we recommend Jody Wagner. And for Attorney General, we recommend Steve Shannon. For specific targeted races, please check out our election related web site at

Until next time.