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Va. teachers’ groups push back against GOP education proposals

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RICHMOND — House Republicans on Monday morning pre-emptively protested the Virginia Education Association and the Virginia PTA, touting their own education proposals that have been roundly denounced by the teachers' groups, which later gathered for their traditional "lobby day" at the Capitol.

Delegate Richard P. "Dickie" Bell, for example, is carrying a bill that would overhaul the state's teacher-contract system by replacing continuing contract status for teachers and principals with annual contracts.

"In business, we demand performance and accountability from executives and workers alike," said Mr. Bell, Staunton Republican and a retired schoolteacher. "For the sake of our children, we must require the same results-oriented approach for our teachers and administrators."

Another proposal would grant tax credits to corporations that provide scholarships to low-income children.

Delegate James P. "Jimmie" Massie III, Henrico Republican, who is sponsoring the tax-credit legislation, said that it "would improve the education of thousands of Virginia's most disadvantaged children, improve our public schools and save the commonwealth's taxpayers millions of dollars."

A few hundred education activists who rallied Monday afternoon outside the Bell Tower on Capitol Square begged to differ.

Kitty Boitnott, president of the Virginia Education Association, said that since the governor was proposing to give teachers annual performance-based evaluations, "it's only fair that we offer the governor our own performance-based evaluation."

Ms. Boitnott then ticked off a number of measures the group supports, such as the repeal of a law preventing schools from starting before Labor Day, and others they oppose, including the teacher-contract proposal.

Anne Carson, President of the Virginia PTA, later spoke out against Mr. Massie's tuition tax-credit item, saying the credits "look a whole lot like vouchers to me."

Ms. Boitnott exhorted those in the crowd to look beyond Monday's lobby day and "keep turning up the heat" on legislators over K-12 education proposals and funding.

"A one-time shot on Lobby Day, while it's important, is not enough to keep our legislators accountable," she said.

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