News Release: Delegates reaffirm commitment to competitive pay; retirees also a priority

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Elected representatives from across the state reaffirmed their commitment to competitive pay for teachers during the West Virginia Education Association’s 2014 Delegate Assembly on April 24-25 at the Charleston Marriott Town Center.

Delegates decided that the WVEA’s top legislative priority should continue to be a salary increase for teachers and other school employees.

This renewed focus follows legislation – which was sparked by the WVEA’s Competitive Pay Campaign – that passed during the regular session of the Legislature. Senate Bill 391 provided a $1,000 across-the-board pay raise for teachers and a 2 percent raise for school service employees.

The legislation also included very important goal language that starting teacher pay should begin at $43,000 by 2019.

The WVEA’s recommitment to competitive pay reflects its members’ strong desire to reach that goal.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, spoke to WVEA delegates about the necessity for this year’s pay increase and credited WVEA leaders with consistently pushing for it.

“Without their persistence it wouldn’t have happened,” he said.

Former state Sen. Lloyd Jackson, a current member of the state Board of Education, told delegates during Friday night’s banquet that Marcellus and Utica shale development in the natural gas industry is about to spark a new boom in the state.

To accommodate that boom, West Virginia will need highly qualified   teachers in every classroom and adequate compensation to entice them to teach.         

The average teacher’s salary in the state for 2012-2013 was $10,650 less than the national average salary, and West Virginia this year continues to lag behind all five of its neighboring states in teacher pay by as much as $19,000.

Because the state faces daunting stats like these – and is further saddled by an aging population and a constant need to fill critical shortage areas – a multiyear commitment to improving teacher salaries has become all the more necessary.             

At this year’s Delegate Assembly, delegates also agreed to pursue as a top legislative priority an increase in the state income tax exemption for retired school employees.

Retirees burdened by the higher cost of living and a stagnant, fixed income just need a break.

Delegates also re-elected two officers, WVEA President Dale Lee and Vice President Wayne Spangler, to new three-year terms that begin June 15.

Also, the WVEA delegates elected three Executive Committee members to three-year terms.

They are:

| Greg Phillips, president of the Harrison County Education Association, a returning member

| New member Gayle Allen, president of the Hampshire County Education Association               

| New member Susan Shaffer with the Berkeley County Education Support Professionals