Virginia Education Association President Discusses Issues, Part 2
In this part of our interview with Meg Gruber we will learn about the NEA and the VEA involvement with the upcoming elections. Asked if the VEA and NEA are non-partisan, Gruber answers and goes on to share a little about how the VEA and the NEA endorses candidates in local and national elections and their stand on a few controversial issues.
“We are non-partisan” said Gruber. “In our recommendation process for political candidates, all declared candidates receive the same written questionnaire. They are asked to complete it, and if they complete it they are asked to come in for an in-person interview. And based on their answers to primarily education issue questions, then the body that does the interview makes a recommendation. On the federal level, with the National Education Association, for the general election our delegates, about 8000 of us, in the next couple of weeks when we meet in Washington D.C., we will have a secret ballot vote on whether or not we are going to recommend a candidate, and who that candidate is in the general election.”
Does the VEA base their support for candidates based on that candidate’s political leanings, such as Conservative, Progressive or Libertarian?
“No we do not” Gruber says. “For the VEA within Virginia when we are talking about recommending or endorsing members for the General Assembly or for the Governor and so on, it’s strictly done on their educational issues and how they answer the questionnaire and if they choose to participate in the process, how they answer in their interview. We have recommended Republicans as well as Democrats. We have a lot of strong Republican Legislators who are friends of public education who receive the endorsement of the Virginia Education Association.”
Does the VEA donate dues money to the candidates they endorse?
“All of our money that we give to candidates has to be a voluntary donation from our member” said Gruber. “We do not use dues money, so yes, we’ll help a political candidate with a monetary donation.”
We also asked Ms. Gruber about the VEA’s stand on several issues.
First she answers about the Department of Education’s recent directive that Transgender students be permitted to use the bathroom and shower of their choice in all schools.
“We don’t have a direct position of support” Gruber said “What we want to see is that all children are treated with compassion and with concern for whatever their individual needs are. It’s about dealing with the children who have these issues and treating them with respect, and not only doing what’s best for them, but also doing what’s best for all of our other students.”
Regarding charter Schools, Ms. Gruber says the VEA supports public Charter Schools, but not for profit private ones.
Regarding Education vouchers to enable those stuck in poor schools to receive money to escape and attend good private schools, the VEA opposes this as Gruber explains.
“What we have in Virginia is a scholarship which is given to students and businesses that contribute to the fund receive a tax credit” said Gruber. “There is unfortunately no accountability at all. Public schools are underfunded to begin with and then if you are siphoning money away from our public schools to go into some type of non-public school, they don’t have to meet the same standards.”
If those concerns were addressed, she would only support vouchers if all the public schools were first fully funded.
Be sure to tune into Allegheny Mountain Radio for the third and final part to this story. Ms. Gruber will talk about issues that will be discussed in the upcoming NEA national meeting, and about what is happening in Virginia Education.