FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (DC News Now) — In an 11-0 vote, with one member away from the dais, the Fairfax County School Board gave teachers and staff unions collective bargaining rights — becoming the fifth school district in the commonwealth to do so since it became allowable by law in 2021.

Ahead of the vote, dozens of teachers rallied with union leaders outside Luther Jackson Middle School. They held signs, chanted, and gave speeches emphasizing why they believe the agreement will change the school district for the better.

“Historically, education has been underpaid,” said Durann Thompson, a third-grade teacher at Woodley Hills Elementary School. “Teachers have been underpaid. And it’s time we bring that to an end. It’s 2023.”

Thompson remarked the timing of the moment is crucial, as Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors is considering a vote that would increase salaries for its members by as much as 45%, effective in January.

“The last time I checked, there was not a shortage of Board of Supervisor employees,” Thompson said.

According to the 22-page collective bargaining document, more than 28,000 FCPS employees would be able to be represented by a union. They would be able to negotiate wages, hours, benefits, and terms of employment. The school board would still set the district’s budget.

According to Virginia law, union members would not be allowed to strike.

On average, teachers in Fairfax County make $83,623 a year. According to the Washington Area Boards of Education, that’s less than Arlington, Falls Church, Montgomery County, Maryland, and Alexandria. It’s greater than Loudoun County, Prince William County, Manassas City, and Manassas Park.

Emily VanDerhoff, a first-grade teacher who is with the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, said the agreement is about more than just money.

“When everyone who’s affected by policy has a say in that policy… everyone wins.”