Lawmakers draft plan to lift starting teacher salaries to $43K

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Lawmakers draft plan to lift starting teacher salaries to $43K
By Shauna Johnson, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Bills that would raise the starting salaries of West Virginia teachers to $43,000 within the next five years were scheduled to be introduced in the state Senate and House of Delegates, possibly this week.

“We made a promise to our educators last year that we would get them to a competitive level of pay by 2019, so that’s part of our goal,” said House Education chair Amanda Pasdon (R-Monongalia, 51).

The proposal, if approved, would raise teacher salaries by $500 in the coming year and by $2,500 in each of the following four years, Pasdon said.

Last year, lawmakers approved $1,000 across-the-board raises for teachers.

Currently, first-year teachers in West Virginia earn about $33,000 annually.

The new pay bills that are being drafted have the support of West Virginia Education Association president Dale Lee: “It doesn’t put us above the surrounding states, like Pennsylvania and Maryland, but it does make us, at least, competitive.”

A legislative cost analysis, called a fiscal note, was not available Tuesday morning.

Lee estimated the proposal price for West Virginia would be $12.5 million the first year and $62 million in each of the four subsequent years.

“Our children should be our No. 1 priority and the most important aspect to any kid’s education is that quality teacher in front of them,” Lee said. “When we have more and more people leaving the state or not coming in the profession because they can make more money in anything else, then we have to make our salaries competitive.”

Pasdon admitted the success of the proposal would likely come down to identifying state funding for the raises in already tight budgets.

“We’re still working through that,” she said. “I want the most we can get for our teachers because I think we are in a real crisis. If we don’t do something, then we’re really going to look back in five years and regret the opportunities that we had in front of us.”

House Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha, 40) said funding the proposal would be difficult, “but not necessarily impossible.”

“We’re not where, at this point, I think we can say we’re going to be able to start spending money, but that’s something we want to look at,” Armstead said. “I think all of us would like to get to that point, whether we do that this year or not still remains to be seen.”

Pasdon and Lee were guests on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline” that originated from the State Capitol during the ongoing legislative session. It continues through March 14.