The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

January 10, 2012

WVEA to seek more teacher pay raises

CHARLESTON — A year after state public school teachers received pay raises, West Virginia’s largest educators’ group is calling for another one.

Despite an across-the-board raise of $1,488 last year, West Virginia remains 48th in the nation in teacher pay and nearly $12,000 below the national average, West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said at a news conference Monday.

“It revolves around ensuring that our kids have the best, highly qualified, motivated teacher in front of them,” Lee said.

The National Education Association says the average teacher in West Virginia was paid $44,701 in the 2009-10 school year. Average salaries are higher in every surrounding state.

Lee has made improving salaries a top goal since he took over the WVEA in June 2008.

Lawmakers gave teachers a $1,600 raise that year. Teachers then went three years without one, other than normal increases granted for experience.

The Legislature’s 60-day regular session begins Wednesday, and Lee will be going back to ask for more. He also said it’s “unacceptable” that some 2,000 classrooms lack a certified teacher, only because their districts can’t afford to pay them.

“That’s the basis for a child’s education and their future,” Lee said. “We have to address that.”

Lee said the perception of the teaching profession has taken a hit from lawmakers, parents, business leaders and negative stories in the media.

“And unfortunately, a lot of people equate respect with salaries,” Lee said. “And when you can make more in any other profession, it’s going to be hard to show that respect to teachers.”

Lee also released the results of a survey of 3,800 educators taken in November and December. It shows 36 percent of respondents blame problems in the public school system on parents who aren’t involved in their child’s education.

Twenty-nine percent blame lawmakers for failing to provide adequate funding, 26 percent point to students for a lack of discipline, respect and motivation, and 9 percent blame teachers for being unprepared to deal with student needs.

When asked what would be most effective in improving West Virginia’s public schools, most educators said reducing class sizes to give teachers more one-on-one time with students, followed by ensuring all students have access to a well-rounded education, including history, music and art.

Expanding the school year got the lowest ratings, and 93 percent of educators said too much emphasis is placed on standardized testing in public schools.

Lee said the survey was conducted because “the morale of our school employees is approaching an all-time low. Teacher bashing is everywhere. We are constantly hearing from elected leaders, business groups and others that our students are not performing well and the impression is that our schools and school employees are the problems.

“We have initiatives constantly being offered from those outside of the progression proposing ‘fixes’ to our ailing schools. We have teachers who feel as though their expertise is ignored and their work is not valued.”

A state Department of Education spokeswoman said Monday the department is reviewing the survey.

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