CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia is ranked 50th out of 51 states in teacher pay according to the National Education Association‘s educator pay data. WVEA President Dale Lee said the low pay is having a direct impact on teacher shortages across the state.
“In 2018, we had 728 positions without a certified teacher. That’s increased to over 1,500 this year. I’m going to project that goes up to about 1,700 or more this coming year,” said WVEA President Lee.
He said while the cost-of-living plays a big role in those figures, West Virginia fails to pay teachers based on where they live in the state. Teachers who live in the Eastern Panhandle near Maryland or in Morgantown near Pennsylvania generally get paid the same amount as a teacher living in southern West Virginia.
“If you’re in the Eastern Panhandle and you can drive to Maryland and make $25,000 more or drive to Pennsylvania and make $22,000 more, young teachers with debt and student loans are going to leave the state and go across the border. The main reason why West Virginia teacher pay has dropped from 49th to 50th in the last year is that teachers have only received three raises in the last four years,” said WVEA President Lee.
He said teachers will receive a $2,300 pay bump beginning July 1 to cover premium increases from the state Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA), but it’s not enough to recruit more teachers to the profession. The Legislature approved the raises earlier this year.
“How did they sell that $2,300 raise? They sold it as that’s going to take care of the increase in the premiums from PEIA, so you’re actually not going to see that coming to your paycheck, which is going to make us fall further behind,” said WVEA President Lee.