By Shauna Johnson
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Even though Governor Earl Ray Tomblin is proposing no pay raises for teachers in the coming year, lawmakers are still expected to have a teacher pay raise proposal to consider during the ongoing Regular Legislative Session.
Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, said a bill will soon be introduced at the State House that, if approved, would put into state code yearly increases to take the starting teaching salary in the Mountain State to $43,000 by 2019.
Right now, teachers at the beginning of their careers make about $33,000 annually.
“We will work with the House and Senate to fulfill that goal,” Lee said of the target amount that is designed to make West Virginia’s teacher salaries competitive with surrounding states. “We can end this drought of teachers leaving this state and going across county borders,” he said.
The initial step in the multi-year plan was taken during the 2014 Regular Legislative Session when lawmakers approved a $1,000 across-the-board pay raise for teachers.
Lee said that is not enough, though, to retain the best teachers in the long-term.
The language in SB391, which was approved last year, did set the 2019 goal. But Lee said incremental increases for starting teacher pay must be codified so the raises do not get lost in any annual budget cuts.
For too long, Lee said, teacher pay has lagged behind those in many other professions.
“If we’re going to be a profession, which we are, we should be treated like professionals and we need to entice people to get into the classroom and stay and one way to do that is by getting the pay to a competitive level,” Lee said.
Education leaders in the state House of Delegates, according to Lee, are committed to addressing the starting pay before the Regular Legislative Session ends on March 14.
“They made a commitment to teachers. They made a commitment to education. They made a commitment to kids,” he said on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
As for the chances of passage, “Anything that’s a priority here (at the State Capitol) gets done,” Lee said.