By Jeff Jenkins
A Senate bill aimed at giving teachers a modest raise took a significant turn Monday when the House Education Committee proposed a far steeper pay hike.
The Senate bill included only an $837 across-the-board raise for teachers, but the House committee changed that to a three-year package totaling $6,000. The first year would see teachers earning an additional $1,000, the second year $2,000 and the third year $3,000.
The committee also increased service personnel salaries by $100 a month for three years. That would total $1,000 annually for 10-month employees and $1,200 a year for 12-month workers.
The amendment was introduced by Del. David Walker (D-Clay).
Education Committee Chair Mary Poling (D-Barbour), who voted against the changes to the Senate bill, urged committee members to consider the state’s current financial condition.
“Consider whether it is truly fiscally responsible to look at our budget projections for next year and the following year and support this motion, when in two years we won’t have the money to pay for it without tax increases,” Poling said.
Yet the committee went against the chairwoman and approved the significant increases, which a preliminary review found could cost $260 million.
West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said he appreciated the support for teachers but was concerned about not having a funding source for such a raise. The move left him concerned about the prospects of the bill passing in the last week of the legislative session.
“It’s too important in this year to let the pay raise die completely,” Lee said.
The bill now heads to the House Finance Committee, which could change the bill back to the Senate version.
Lee said more discussion is needed, “where you have all parties involved (coming) up with something that has a chance not only to pass the House but be accepted in the Senate. And I’m not sure what that is right now.
“If (House members) are willing to provide a revenue source, I think this is a great thing. But to be fiscally responsible you have to have a revenue source to go with that.”