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Put Kids First

Student-Centered Campaign Makes Headway in Virginia 

By John Rosales


“Put Kids First” is more than the name of an ongoing joint campaign sponsored by the Virginia Education Association (VEA) and Virginia PTA. Last spring, it was the rallying cry of more than 2,000 educators, students, parents, and others who assembled at the statehouse in Richmond on behalf of the state’s children.

“Sometimes it seems like even though we are leading the fight to provide an adequate public education for our kids, we aren’t being listened to,” VEA President Meg Gruber said at the event.

Gruber noted that 5,000 education jobs were cut since the recession, even though the state added 30,000 students to the classroom rolls.

“We have schools with leaky roofs and peeling paint, classrooms that are so overcrowded that kids can’t get the individual help they need, students who are falling through the cracks because great programs are being eliminated,” she told rally attendees. “We are not being listened to!”

The message of the rally was simple: State lawmakers need to budget enough money for public schools.

That message will resonate in December when Gov. Terry McAuliffe issues his new state budget, and in January when the Virginia legislature convenes.

It will also inspire VEA’s 50,000 members and the 300,000 members of the Virginia PTA to hold legislators accountable to the state’s children, says Gruber.

“We will want to see our local and state leaders match the commitment that our members show every day in schools and local communities,” she says.


Campaign organizers have encouraged educators in Virginia to join their local PTA, vote for leaders who support public education, and develop media and other strategies that put kids first. They’ve also been invited to tell their stories online to underscore the importance of adequately funding public schools. To share your story and support Virginia students, click here.  You can also join the conversation here.

The campaign is centered around four issues common across Virginia and most other states:

Over Testing

When the No Child Left Behind Act became law in 2001, it called for a total of six standardized tests for students. Today, that number has mushroomed to 17. And those are just the federally mandated tests.

Class Size

The Department of Education confirms that class size is one of only four evidence-based reforms proven to increase student achievement. Studies from Tennessee, Wisconsin, and other states show that students in smaller classes in the early grades do better in every way they’re measured, including grades, attendance, and test scores.

Early Childhood Education

Young children experience crucial intellectual development well before they’re old enough to set foot in a classroom. Two-thirds of Virginia’s 3- and 4-year-olds in low-income households are not enrolled in a preschool program.


Virginia is the 10th-richest state in America, per capita, but ranks 39th in state funding for public schools. The state is spending 16 percent less in 2015, per student, than it did in 2009.


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