Lee: Lawmakers need to look at raising teacher salaries during 2018 session

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Lee: Lawmakers need to look at raising teacher salaries during 2018 session
By Carrie Hodousek, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The president of the West Virginia Education Association wants to see lawmakers implement across the board teacher pay raises during the the 2018 Regular Legislative Session.

“We have to have a long range plan of action to look at teacher salaries so that we’re not continuing to have the 700+ openings across the state,” Dale Lee said on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

The 60-day session begins Wednesday. Governor Jim Justice plans to give his second State of the State Address at the Capitol that evening.

Last year, Justice proposed a two percent pay raise for West Virginia teachers as part of his address. Lee said he’s hoping the governor will deliver a similar message to lawmakers this year.

Lee said the last time teachers received a pay increase was in 2014. The Legislature implemented a $1,000 across the board raise with the pledge to increase starting salaries to $43,000 by 2019.

Since 2014, Lee said nothing has been done to improve those salaries. The current starting salary remains at around $33,000.

“The legislators are the ones who put that language in statue. The legislators are the ones who set that goal and yet they haven’t done anything to get us toward that,” Lee said.

Lee said it would’ve been easier to implement small pay raises over a five year period.

“Had we continued from 2014 on, that would’ve given you five years to get the $10,000. That would’ve been a simple push. Now it’s not as easy,” he said.

Teachers are leaving the state because they’re not getting paid enough, Lee said. It’s creating hundreds of job openings at public schools across the state.

“About 50 percent of new teachers, by their fifth year, are leaving the profession to either get higher paying jobs somewhere else or leaving the state,” he said.

Lee said the goal for this legislative session is to come up with a plan to make teacher salaries competitive with other states by a certain date.

“I’m not saying we have to do it by 2019, but you can do it in the next five years,” he said.

The session starts at 12 p.m. Wednesday.