Virginia Teachers Take on the Statehouse to Demand Fully Funded Education

Supermajority Education Fund

January 30, 2020

Caity Gladstone-Mueller has been teaching in Virginia for seven years. She has two master’s degrees and teaches juniors and seniors in dual-enrollment English classes. And up until three months ago, Gladstone-Mueller worked four jobs because, despite her experience, education, and training, her wages for teaching remain at $50,127 before taxes. Now, she only works three jobs because she’s pregnant and worried about the stress all those gigs put on her body.

Gladstone-Mueller was one of about 1,500 teachers who protested in front of the Virginia statehouse on Jan. 27 to demand state legislators fully fund education in Virginia. Their demands include paying teachers and support staff a living wage, so they aren’t working two or three or four jobs; paying for supportive positions like nurses and counselors; ensuring collective bargaining rights; and the return of due process for termination.

Despite her low pay, Gladstone-Mueller loves her teaching job. “For something that has been my dream for so long, I feel like I finally hit the sweet spot,” she told Supermajority News. “But I know it’s not going to be like that for everyone.”

Currently, the average Virginia teacher’s salary is $51,994, which is nearly $8,500 less than the national teacher’s salary and puts Virginia 32nd in teacher pay in the country. The state is ranked 40th in state spending per student.

This year was the second year Gladstone-Mueller joined colleagues across the state for a rally at the capitol, but it was the first year she did direct lobbying, talking with state delegates and their staff about how to better fund teachers. “This year I spoke with four state congressmen and basically said, these are the four things we need to pass,” she told Supermajority News. “For the first time, I really felt like we were getting somewhere. It wasn’t just I’m standing outside a building chanting, but we’re talking one-on-one.”

Gladstone-Mueller said one of the most “heartbreaking” things to see is her students who want to be teachers, but see how teachers are treated.

Gladstone-Mueller, whose husband recently made a career change from teaching into law, also understands why teachers walk away from the profession. There’s a fundamental lack of support when the field is underfunded, she said. “I think the biggest thing that people don’t quite understand is that teachers aren’t walking away out of a hatred of the profession. We’re walking away because at the end of the day we go home, and we worry about our students all the time. At no point do I leave my job. Every single day I’m going home with something,” she told Supermajority News. “Just because I teach high-achieving kids, doesn’t mean they don’t have problems. When we are turning away from the profession, it’s because we feel we can no longer help our students because we can no longer help ourselves.”