NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A group is set to push for collective bargaining rights for teachers and staff at the Newport News School Board meeting on Tuesday.

Several members of Newport News Educators United will speak at the meeting that starts at 6:30 p.m.

A law passed in 2020 in the General Assembly allows for Virginia teachers and staff to bargain with local school boards over wages and working conditions, if the school board votes in favor. The legislation goes into effect May 1.

Proponents say the change in state code is a “game changer” in giving teachers a seat at the bargaining table for better conditions for both them and their students. Critics point to potential tax increases.

Virginia teachers have not had collective bargaining rights since 1977.

Hampton Roads school divisions recently told 10 On Your Side they have several teacher vacancies, with 37 in Newport News as of March 15. Local districts have responded by proposing raises and by increasing outreach, especially to special education and math teachers.

Average teacher pay in Virginia is about $52,000 a year, well below the national average of $60,477.

WAVY will have coverage later tonight.