Monthly Two Cents

How much do we value Educators?

by Steve Johnson

I know all of you are having an absolute fit every morning when you wake up, scroll over your phone or turn on the news to the Trump Outrage of the Day/Hour/Moment. It’s so easy to get worked up about it, to yell, scream and fire off an angry email or phone call to a congressman or a senator. 

Which you should continue to do. That’s all well and good. But remember, the 2020 election is still more than a year away. We have some work to do in the meantime — namely, elect our great candidates to the General Assembly so they can tip the delicate scale in the state Senate and House of Delegates in our favor. 

If you need some motivation to do something positive instead of a rant about something negative, I have two words for you: teacher salaries. In the Northam administration, we are seeing some of the best gains in teacher salaries since the 1980s. Those of you with long memories will recall that Chuck Robb campaigned way back in 1981 on raising teacher salaries in Virginia to the national median, and beyond. It was a winning formula then, but as Republicans took control of the House of Delegates and the Senate (save five years) in this millennium, Virginia has been losing ground in the ability to compensate the people we entrust with our children’s learning.

Take a look at the numbers that the Virginia Department of Education puts out. Since 2006, Virginia has topped the national median only once, and it’s generally been in 30th place nationally in compensating teachers. That’s North Dakota, Maine, and Montana territory, not to cast aspersions on those fine states. In 2017-18, Virginia was 34th nationally in average teacher salaries, about $650 more than (gasp!) Alabama. From 2009 to 2016, the average teacher salary in Virginia increased by 0.61 percent a year, hardly enough to keep up with just about anything.

To be sure, economic conditions, tight state and local budgets, and the difference between suburban and rural parts of the state all come into play. But there’s no mistaking the trendline. That’s why Gov. Northam pitched an additional $88 million to bump teacher salaries up by 5 percent. “Raising teacher pay is one step to securing the quality of our K-12 education system for years to come,” he said. Thank you, governor.

How about our own Hanover? Many factors are at play, but the fact is the average Hanover teacher salary was $47,479 in 2009; five years later it had gained only about $800. But for 2019, the average budgeted salary in Hanover exceeded the state budgeted average for the first time in recorded history ($59,051 versus $58,7149, according to state data). That’s a trendline to be proud of. But even then, it’s tempered by the realization that salaries stagnate after several years of service — longevity doesn’t seem to be as high on the list as it should be — so we lose experienced educators to other jurisdictions. 

You can do a lot of things with statistics, but the teacher salary numbers are pretty clear. Guns and health care are likely to dominate this fall’s debate for the General Assembly, and well they should. But teachers have a day-to-day effect on every single child they encounter and to shortchange them is to shortchange our kids. It’s another reason to ignore the national-level blather for a spell and work on the task at hand — giving Gov. Northam more support and more tools to raise educational attainment in Virginia.

Three-Part Two Cents

Donald Trump’s racism has served as an open door to other racists, encouraging them to come out into the sunshine. And so, 13 KKK members grabbed their sheets and held a rally in Hanover in early July. It was a short 15 minutes, but as you will see, it’s left a deep scar on our county.  

In this month’s Two Cents column, three HDC members give their response to this unwanted intrusion: Pat Hein who witnessed the demonstration taking place right outside her front door, Ashland District Supervisor Faye Prichard, the only supervisor who gave a strong response telling the Klan to stay out of our county, and Sandra Howard, the chair of the HDC Black Caucus who passionately spoke for minority citizens of Hanover. 

Let’s heal this ugly scar by winning more seats on the board of supervisors, winning seats in the State Senate, and winning seats in the House. Canvass, phone bank, write postcards and donate! Toni Radler

First Cent

By Patricia Hein

On July 7, there was a Klu Klux Klan rally across the street from my house!

I know that hatred and bigotry abound but it is easy to believe that it is “out there, someplace else” not in my front yard.

There were thirteen people gathered in front of the Hanover Government Center. They held “Royal Order of White Loyalist” signs, some wore white robes and pointed white hats. Many cars that drove past on route 301 honked their greetings ( and maybe their approval).  The experience brought me to tears. Who, Why?

Who has come to my neighborhood to express their hatred? Are these fellow Hanover citizens? Is Hanover seen as a place where such a message would be acceptable? Are they gathered on Route 301 because Rt 95 is blocked due to holiday traffic and there is good exposure here? Is this display of white supremacy now somehow acceptable because of what we hear from the White House? I have always known that our voices, leadership and votes matter. Seeing the Klu Klux Klan out my front window was sickening but also very much a call to action. I want to think that most Hanoverians believe in freedom and justice for all. We must raise our voices in our neighborhoods, churches, schools and at NRA meetings!

Second Cent

By Faye Prichard

Sadly, as many of you know, the KKK held a demonstration on the lawn of the Hanover County courthouse.  I cannot begin to express the sickness I feel at having this despicable hate group in our county. There is absolutely no room for that kind of hate in our home.  While we are often described as pretty homogeneous, the truth is we are not all one thing.  We are black and white and Hispanic.  We are men and women.  We are farmers and townspeople as well as suburbanites. But what we all are, is Hanover County citizens. Every one of us. It is particularly offensive to see this kind of display right after we celebrate the birth of our country. We are better than this and this kind of display is not welcome here.  Please know that the county had no prior notice of the demonstration.

Third Cent

by Sandra Howard

As Chairman of the Black Caucus of the  HDC, I am concerned about the Board of Supervisors' very anemic response to the KKK's appearance and demonstration in Hanover.  With the exception of Supervisor Faye Prichard, those of you who responded didn't seem too concerned that Hanover was the place the Klan picked to demonstrate and ask for membership support. And, those Board members with no response... well "the silence was deafening."

Bigotry and disdain for any human being are like cancer and it eats at the core of our Inalienable and God-given rights as our Constitution's Ninth amendment so states the concept of "inalienable rights". The Ku Klux Klan ideas represent a deadly poisonous venom spewed on black and people of color and there is no place in Hanover County or America for this deep-rooted hatred because of the color of anyone's skin. Our nation thrived on diversification and will continue to do so. We fought that war and "WON"; it ended May 9, 1865; this is 2019.  We, as Americans have too many issues to deal with these immoral and hateful acts and we will continue to stand and fight against theses vile forms of oppression.

We support the Hanover NAACP's call on the Hanover Board of Supervisors to speak out against racism and inequality and replace its cavalier message with one of dignity, moral character, and support for all of the people they serve, all people of Hanover County.

Sandra R. Howard- Chairman, The Black Caucus of the HDC

Long Live America

by, Betsy Farley

Donald Trump is planning a July 4th party to celebrate himself. He is also suggesting he will stay in office long after the constitutional maximum of two terms. This is not what the 4th represents. Look back at the Declaration of Independence, it is one of the most important United States historical documents. Take time to read and think about what is stated in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776. It is something we should do every 4th.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

Donald Trump, get a grip. You are not the change agent! Long live America and God Bless.

Support, don't Judge

by Shawnae Lacy

As I sat relaxing with my feet submerged in a warm bubbly whirlpool of happiness, a woman seated next to me struck up a lovely conversation.  We chatted briefly on the weather, our college-aged children and their next steps (her daughter was with her) and how grateful we were to be able to indulge in a trip to the nail salon.  

And then it happened…The TV was showing the national news and the headline story was about the new law passed in Alabama outlawing abortion and criminalizing any doctor who performed one.  The room was suddenly quiet and the nail technician just shook her head. The silence was broken by the voice next to me blurting out “Serves them right! If they don’t want to be pregnant they should keep their legs closed!”

I was momentarily stunned and confused. I’d heard this notion before – that unwanted pregnancies are the result of overly promiscuous women who don’t know how to control their sexual urges – but this was coming from a lady who I had just connected with on a personal level.  She had been warm and friendly and funny and approachable. I glanced at her daughter who sat mortified. Beyond that, her expression showed hurt. Like she knew if she ever found herself in that situation she would be judged by her mother instantly.

Like many others in this debate, I am pro-life.  I believe that children are a blessing and should be loved, cherished and raised surrounded in love.  But I am also a realist. I’ve seen that the world can be a dark, unspeakably mean place. As a foster (and soon to be adoptive) parent, I could tell you stories that would break your heart. You’ve seen them on the news as well. When pregnancy happens at the wrong time or under unfortunate circumstances, it can bring disaster to the mother and/or the developing baby. And to me, the ONLY person qualified to determine those qualifying circumstances is that pregnant woman.

When a woman decides to terminate her pregnancy, it is not a time for anyone to pass judgment.  It’s a decision between her, her doctor and her God and we need to respect and support her. If she decides to continue her pregnancy, we should use our energy to support her and her child during pregnancy and AFTERWARDS.  That support includes (but is not limited to) physical and mental healthcare for the family, an affordable quality education, gender and sexual identity acceptance, financial well-being and the right to not be seen as a threat and be killed because of the color of their skin. Real pro-lifers know that life continues after birth and doesn’t end until the last breath is drawn (or later).  And that’s my two cents worth.

Climate Change is Real

by Carleigh Heckel

Stonewall Jackson Middle School, 8th grade

2030 will arrive in ten years and eight months. That’s how long we have to cut worldwide carbon emissions by over half to keep global warming at 1.5°C.  To do so will require a massive restructuring of industry and the economy. It certainly won’t be easy, but it is possible. Failing to do so and reach net zero by 2050 would most likely result in mass starvation, water shortages, more frequent and intense natural disasters, sea level rise, loss of biodiversity and extinction, and more. What’s worse is that the burdens of these effects fall disproportionately on those who are already disadvantaged: people of color, low-income people, the homeless, developing countries, indigenous people, et cetera.

In addition to the myriad of ethical issues, failure to act on climate change is also an economic burden. It is more expensive not to act on climate change than to take action now. The economic costs associated with giving aid to those affected by natural disasters are tremendous, and it will only get worse. Furthermore, we can’t escape from this. The effects of climate change will continue on for centuries and possibly even millennia. Our society’s actions over the course of the next eleven years will affect billions or even trillions of lives, all of whom will have to pay for our inaction.

In addition, it’s simply wrong not to act. Climate change is now. We are already feeling its effects on rising sea levels, glacier melt, hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and even things as common as thunderstorms and tornados. In 2018 alone, over ten thousand people died as a result of natural disasters. Some of those deaths could have been prevented if we had taken action earlier. The crisis will only grow exponentially worse. We have a responsibility to the people of the world today and to the people of the future to pass on a livable world. I don’t want to be remembered as the people who condemned the future to an unlivable climate.

In short, everyone alive today has an obligation to push the government and our elected officials to take radical, necessary climate action. The fate of our planet has fallen into our hands. It would be foolish to throw that responsibility to the wind and choose to condemn ourselves, our fellow humans, and future humans.