Dear Honorable Legislators and Senators,
I am writing to you because I am concerned about the enormous shortfalls in our state budget, and the huge impact this will have in every school district throughout Virginia.
I ‘m a mother of a 6 year old who attends elementary school in Virginia Beach, VA. Shortfalls in Virginia Beach’s education budget will directly impact my son and his peers.
I’m also a highly qualified, highly educated, special education pre-school teacher in the City of Norfolk. Our superintendent, who just announced his retirement, has made it clear that with a $40 million budget shortfall, which we are facing for the 2010-2011 fiscal year the situation is grave. I believe it is dire.
Our district will be forced to enlarge classes, offer fewer alternative and specialty programs, fewer opportunities for enrichment, and reduce the technical and instructional support provided to our schools.
As a teacher, though highly qualified and rewarded with tenure, I have seen my pay freeze at a level that has caused my family hardship. I have had difficulty paying for basic needs, as well as any enriching opportunities I have wanted to offer to my son.
I am saddened and angered that I do not have a ready response for my child as to why his talented, educated, experienced and highly motivated mother is not able to enjoy a higher level of monetary success and professional respect.
In our country, success and respect often go hand in hand, along with money. I want my son to know and believe that our society will reward hard work, education, and perseverance. He knows I worked for eight long years to earn my first degree, a BA, and then went on to earn two more advanced degrees, the most recent while I was pregnant with him and on a fellowship.
I want him to see that all my hard work has paid off for both of us, and to be encouraged to continue applying himself, his talents, and aptitudes toward his own education and his own success.
Matthew 6:21 reminds us: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” I hope and pray that you will vote for measures that make it clear that both the heart and treasure of our state is invested in education, from pre-k to grade 12 and beyond.
When it comes to education, the question is: do we pay now, or pay later? Do we fund education fully and wisely now? Or do we fund more prisons and bare-bones social programs later? Do we pay highly qualified teachers what they deserve now? Or do we push them into other lucrative positions, only to have to pay more for the problems caused by teacher shortages, lack of morale, and qualifications? Please consider my words as a mother and a teacher when you face our state’s budget.
Thank you, Maura Alia Badji, ECSE, MFA, MS Ed.