Linda Elmer

Linda Elmer, art teacher at North Marion High, guides students through the world of painting. In his State of the State address last week, Gov. Joe Manchin proposed a 2.5 percent pay increase for teachers.

Local people and education officials say the governor’s proposed pay increase for teachers just isn’t enough.

In his “State of the State” address last week, Gov. Joe Manchin proposed a 2.5 percent increase for all teachers and pledged no first-year teacher would make less than $30,000 a year. Manchin also pledged a 2.5 percent, one-time bonus for state employees, including school service personnel.

Local residents said Monday they believe an increase is needed.

“It takes a special person to be a teacher and work with kids,” said Michelle Garcia. “They deserve everything they can get.”

Christie Thompson said she believed a raise would be good for the teachers.

“It’s about time,” said Dennis Wilfong. “They need to pay teachers and substitute teachers more.”

Julius Jacquez said he wishes the raise could be bigger. With inflation, the raise won’t amount to much, he said.

Groups representing teachers and school service personnel agreed.

“It’s a slap in the face,” said American Federation of Teachers-Marion County president Stacey Strawderman.

A 2.5 percent raise won’t keep up with inflation, she explained.

Strawderman noted teachers don’t go into their fields to become rich, but their pay should be competitive to attract and keep teachers in West Virginia.

Judy Hale, president of the statewide AFT-WV, said teachers in surrounding states are making more money, which is attracting teachers to other states. According to Hale, Mountain State teachers’ salaries are ranked 47th in the United States.

“West Virginia is seeing record surpluses (in the state budget),” Hale said. “The state needs to make a decision on whether or not they value education.”

West Virginia School Service Personnel Association executive secretary Bob Brown said he was disappointed with Manchin’s approach. He noted schools depend on the services provided by cooks, bus drivers, custodians and secretaries, but they’re being left behind in salaries.

“I fear the state will start looking like corporate America where we reward the CEOs, but those in the trenches get left behind,” Brown said.

A statement on the West Virginia Education Association Web site noted the 2.5 percent increase would amount to less than $1,000 and a 2.5 percent bonus for service personnel would be about $600. According to the statement, Manchin’s proposed increases wouldn’t take care of problems like teacher recruitment and retention.

Monday, the WVEA held a rally on the Capitol steps to let legislators know changes need to be made. Kym

Reynolds, spokesperson for the organization’s Charleston office, said more than 5,000 people joined in the event. Many of the teachers present spoke to their local legislators about making changes in Manchin’s proposals, Reynolds said. She noted many of the legislators were receptive and sympathetic.

“I think they know we mean business,” she said.

Reynolds and Hale noted their organizations would keep pushing their legislative agendas and would be watching what legislators do during the regular session.

The AFT-WV suggests a total $10,000 increase over the next three years, while WVEA is suggesting a 6 percent increase for the next two years with a reduction in the amount local school boards pay.

A statement from WVEA president Charles Delauder indicated reducing the local share in the school aid formula would allow a larger amount of local funding to be used for salary and benefit increases without having to raise local property taxes.

The WVSSPA has not identified a specific amount for salary increase but is requesting equal treatment and an increase, not a percentage.

E-mail Katie Wilson at kwilson@timeswv.com.

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