by Félix Pérez/photo courtesy of educators in Princess Anne High School in Virginia Beach
It started simply enough: an educator suggested that there be a statewide day of mourning in response to staggering budget cuts and vicious attacks on teachers by Virginia elected officials. Within just a few days, what became known as Black Friday spread by Facebook and email to every city, town and hollow in the commonwealth.
At last count, more than 4,000 Virginia educators pledged on Facebook and email to wear black to work on Friday, February 17.
Brittany Harris, a third-grade teacher in Bristol, Virginia, described her involvement to her local newspaper this way: “We hope that standing together wearing our black will show that we do support what we do, we love what we do, and that we want that to continue.”
Kitty Boitnott, a 33-year public school educator and library media specialist, sent out an email last weekend to gauge interest in the symbolic, no-frills protest. The idea caught hold and spread like wildfire. The Virginia Education Association’s Facebook page was inundated with pictures of educators — and supportive principals — dressed in black.
“It was all grassroots,” said Boitnott, VEA president. “Every major media outlet in the Richmond metro area covered the event starting Tuesday when we released our press release, and today, we were flooded with requests for interviews and commentary. My members report that they are as proud to be VEA members as they have ever been, and the effort went as far out of state as Kentucky and Illinois to people who saw the event on Facebook and offered their support.”
Boitnott and other educators point to the damage done by state lawmakers:
• The governor’s budget would slash the state’s per-pupil support to $4,730 by 2014, down from $5,277 in 2009 — a 12 percent cut.
• As a result of cuts in state support, Virginia now ranks 35th in the nation in state per-pupil funding despite the fact that the commonwealth state ranks seventh nationally in per-capita income.
• Changes in the funding formula for the state’s Standards of Quality for schools and other policy changes, including those proposed by the governor, have permanently cut more than $1.6 billion from the state’s funding stream to localities.
“These cuts reach deep into every school and classroom across the state,” said Boitnott.
“Class sizes are up. At one time, Virginia ranked third in the nation in providing small class sizes. We’re now 41st. That means less individual attention for students.”
Is there something similar to Black Friday going on where you live? How are you letting you governor and state legislators know that cuts to public schools and attacking educators are not the solution to fixing the economy.