03/02/2012 05:04 pm ET

Virginia Teachers Plan "Wake" For Public Education In Light Of Bill That Slashes Retirement Benefits

In opposition of a bill the state Senate is considering -- which would "phase out" systems like tenure and make it easier for teachers to be dismissed -- the Virginia Education Association (VEA) is holding a "wake" for public education in Charlottesville, Va., the Fairfax News reports.

The bill would also cut educators' retirement benefits, according to the paper.

In a statement, the VEA said they don't feel like a priority to lawmakers:

After 216 years, Public Education is being destroyed by lack of funding, unfunded mandates, high stakes testing, an underfunded retirement system, and loss of continuing contracts. Left to mourn will be over-crowded classrooms, forgotten students, demoralized educators, and undervalued support personnel

Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, said last week that he hasn't decided what his vote will be on the bill, but says the legislation has been made fairer by being amended to apply for new teachers, the News Virginian reports.

"We did not provide adequate funding for schools to provide salary increases over the past several years," he said, according to the News Virginian. "My opinion is that it is not the right time to do the continuing contract."

The "wake" will take place in the town's downtown mall at noon this Saturday, and two other rallies will also take place, a Washington Post local post reports.

VEA President Kitty Boitnott said in a statement that a major reason for the protests are a result of Virginia Public Schools falling behind others in the U.S.

"Our class sizes have grown and now rank us 41st in the nation. Our teacher salaries are $7,000 below the national average," Boitnott said. "We cannot and will not stand by as quality public education is dismantled."