Jeff Schapiro writes a relatively positive column about Governor-Elect Kaineâ€™s appointment of recently retired Virginia AFL/CIO president, Danny LaBlanc as the Secretary of the Commonwealth. The article is online, but I had a real chuckle at this part, â€œâ€¦that, as everyone knows, dahlin’, it is simply downright un-Virginian to be too generous with the help.â€?
Full disclosure â€“ Iâ€™m a card carrying, long time union member (International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 2598, Prince William Professional Fire Fighters) and of all of my House of Delegates campaign contributors in â€˜05, unions were far and away my biggest supporters. Also I know Danny and am very pleased that Tim is rewarding his best supporters. I did get a kick out of the â€˜business groupsâ€™ alluded to in the article that were not pleased with Dannyâ€™s appointment. I guess they didnâ€™t have a real good sense of how endorsing Timâ€™s opponent would play out if Tim won.
But those groups should get over it or give up and move to Mississippi. Danny is going to be a real asset for the Kaine administration. Heâ€™s done a fantastic job representing the 400,000 union families in VA and by the results of his and the state organizationâ€™s efforts countless other hundreds of thousands of workers and their families in our â€œlabor challengedâ€? state who are not members, but benefit nonetheless from the advances in worker rights, safety, workersâ€™ compensation, and health care.
But I digressâ€¦ the reason for this post is that line in Shapiroâ€™s piece about being too generous to the help. In this perspective piece â€œthe helpâ€? consists of Virginiaâ€™s teachers. From my perch, this is one of the first groups to whom we need to be â€œtoo generousâ€?. And they are not even AFL/CIO affiliated!
For the three of you that regularly read GettingAround, youâ€™ll recall that I was appointed to the Governor-Electâ€™s Transition PreK to 16 Education Goals Committee. Our policy recommendations to Tim will be forthcoming, but nearly every one of the subgroups had teacher performance improvement and paying the teachers the national average as a foundation. The Virginia Department of Education (VDE) web site with the teacherâ€™s salaries is here and there should be no doubt about the differences in compensation.
From the VDE report for the past year some interesting things jump out at me. First, it looks like many jurisdictions around the Commonwealth are stepping up to the plate to make up the difference for the State not paying the salaries to make it to the national average. The other thing that leaps off the page is that roughly 10% of the jurisdictions have reduced teacher salaries!
Bottom Line — The economic future of the Commonwealth depends on excellence in education. The new economic reality essentially paints opportunities for workers that do service work or knowledge work. It should be fairly apparent to most that the manufacturing boat has sailed. When workers overseas that make whatever, are paid 75% less that those in Flint Hill or New Kent or Norfolk, we need to retool our future work force in a proactive way, not reactively. That means being prepared. Being prepared means focusing on education. Focusing on education starts with teachers.
Now back to Danny and Jeff Schapiro. The final line in the op-ed piece was very powerful for me. Danny will take full advantage of the opportunity he has, to not just be the Secretary of the Commonwealth but as a cabinet member â€“ who has the Governorâ€™s ear â€“ to be about planning our workforce for the future. Danny has the vision and the values and a real sensitivity for improving the quality of life of the working Virginians.
â€œThe point is politics — elective, legislative, and, in Danny LeBlanc’s case, appointive — is about making circles larger.â€?
Larger circles, that include workers for once.