Senate approves teacher pay raise bill; $837 proposed

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By Shauna Johnson
WV MetroNews

Teachers will receive a $837 pay raise next year if the House of Delegates approves the version of the teacher pay raise bill the Senate signed off on, with a 30-2 vote, on Wednesday at the State Capitol.

The bill, SB 391, was changed on the Senate floor to replace the two percent across-the-board pay raise Governor Earl Ray Tomblin had originally proposed for both teachers and school service personnel.

Supporters said the $837 amount would help new teachers more than a percentage increase.

“I am satisfied that in a very, very tough fiscal year, that education is important to both the governor and the Senate and now we’ll take it over to the House,” said Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, of the Senate pay raise package.

As proposed, school service workers will still see the two percent across-the-board increase, while raises for other state employees will total around $500.

The Senate Education Committee had originally amended a $1,000 across-the-board pay raise for teachers into the bill, but the Senate Finance Committee later removed that amendment because of the cost.

“I agree totally with what has been done on this bill to get it revenue neutral,” said Sen. Robert Plymale (D-Wayne, 5), chairman of the Senate Education Committee, on Wednesday.

“I think that is exactly the way to do it from a responsible standpoint, but I also believe that this bill, in doing an across-the-board raise for teachers, does what we’re trying to do long term, (which) is raise the starting salaries for teachers up to the highest levels we can reach.”

The Senate bill includes a goal of increasing starting teacher salaries in West Virginia to $43,000 by 2019. If this latest pay raise is approved, those salaries for first year teachers would be at $32,512 beginning on July 1.

The two “nay” votes in the Senate came from Sen. Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson, 4) and Sen. Brooks McCabe (D-Kanawha, 17).

“As an old basketball coach, this is the second quarter,” said Lee of the WVEA’s continuing work on teacher pay.  “Now we go into the House and see if we can get it back up to the $1,000 and go from there.”