Our Work Continues
With the 2015 regular session of the Legislature approaching, WVEA is asking for your support to back our Competitive Pay Campaign. We all know that strong schools are economic development. An investment in our teachers and staff is an investment in the public structure and will make our communities better.
Top-notch education systems attract business and industry to the state, and highly qualified teachers are the most important component to helping our students achieve. Our state’s economic future depends on a highly skilled workforce, which will not be available without skilled teachers in our classrooms.
A continued focus on improving the salaries of our hardworking teachers and education support professionals will get us past a ranking of 48th in the nation for teacher salaries and help us recruit and retain the professionals we need to improve our education system.
Last year’s Senate Bill 391, which gave teachers a $1,000 pay increase and education support professionals a 2 percent raise, was a good first step toward improving our ranking but one that must be built upon to be successful.
West Virginia continues to lag behind all its neighboring states when it comes to average pay for teachers.
We also trail our neighbors in beginning teacher salaries, which is an impediment to recruiting highly qualified young professionals out of college.
Recruiters from other states know there is a pipeline of young talent in West Virginia. They can entice many of these college graduates to leave the state, luring them away by offering better salaries.
In March, a recruiter from Montgomery County public schools in Virginia attended a job fair at West Virginia State University.
The recruiter told The Charleston Gazette, “The biggest thing we have over West Virginia is salary.”
“It doesn’t sound like much but $3,000 to a person coming right out of school is significant, especially if you have student loans,” he said.
Further, changes to Policy 5100 this year have increased the cohort GPA and entrance exam requirements for college students who want to become teachers.
These higher standards for aspiring teachers make competitive pay all the more necessary: If we want to recruit the best we need to pay them better.
Last year’s pay increase was recognition of the fact that a problem exists. But it was merely a first step, and there remains a steep hill to climb to achieve Competitive Pay.
Between 2003 and 2013 -- and adjusting for inflation -- West Virginia saw average teacher salaries decline by nearly 7 percent.
Meanwhile, teaching vacancies continue in our schools, and are directly related to teacher pay.
Last school year, counties reported more than 316 positions were unfilled, and in most cases the reason for a vacancy was the lack of a qualified candidate.
There is also the growing issue of more and more retirements each year. The rate at which our Baby Boomer teachers and staff are retiring has risen significantly.
According to the West Virginia Consolidated Public Retirement Board, 9,154 teachers and education support professionals retired between 2009 and 2014.
That’s nearly fifteen hundred more than those who retired over the previous five-year period -- from 2004 to 2009 – and twenty-five hundred more than the number of retirees from 1999 to 2004.
Looking at these retirement figures, we cannot afford to regress and be at a disadvantage in our effort to recruit and retain highly qualified, skilled professionals for our schools.
Today I’d like to share with each of you WVEA’s latest West Virginia School Journal.
It features stories about hardworking educators who work second jobs, others who have left the state and West Virginians who either left teaching altogether or didn’t consider the profession because they saw others struggling to get by. The magazine also features commentaries from state leaders like Senator Jackson and a conversation regarding the need for West Virginia to reinvest in its future.
Thank you for letting me speak today on behalf of the WVEA’s Competitive Pay Campaign, and I hope we can work together to build the best education system possible for our great state. I urge you to encourage Governor Tomblin to make competitive pay a priority for the remainder of his term.