I do support public education. And I believe that our teachers struggle with a lot of red tape and interference in how they want to teach. Back when I was a substitute teacher, the environment was so different — children have always been rambunctious and sometimes michievous, but that’s because they are kids. Full of energy and bright sparks of curiosity and laughter. A couple of years ago I shadowed a wonderful, amazing teacher named Linda Williams at Stonewall Jackson. What she and other teachers of this generation are having to go through is a totally different ballgame.
The drug crisis has fundamentally shifted the environment teachers are facing. It’s impossible to keep children’s’ attention. Often they come to school hungry, tired, scared, and/or angry. They need smaller class sizes and teacher’s aides and every type of mental, emotional, psychological counselor support we can give them. Unfortunately, our state is one of the poorest in the nation. Education is already a massive part of our budget. All of these factors resulted in trying to re-shape the system with the omnibus education bill which had an enormous amount of money for increased support personnel, pay raises, the possibility of public charter schools, freedom from state regulations, flexibility to try new approaches, and $24 million just for more access to mental health professionals in schools.
Me personally I have crafted legislation to make possible teacher, state employee, school service personnel and trooper salary increases that mirror our budget surplus – a portion of our surplus will go into a fund to give us the ability to make teacher salaries comparable to neighboring states, reducing the drain of our state’s best across our borders. I believe this is a jobs initiative as well – it will be much easier to attract business when workers want to move here because we’ve shifted our education system into high gear. Where do parents want to go? To areas with the best education system.
I advocate for the most vulnerable retired school teachers and service personnel to receive adjustments to their retirement to bring them more in line with current costs of living. I will continue to advocate for retirees because it’s the right thing to do.