HODGESVILLE - Salaries for West Virginia teachers rank 48th in the nation, and something needs to be done about it in the upcoming legislative session, a local educator told the Upshur County Board of Education Tuesday.
Jan Craig, president of the Upshur County Education Association, urged board members to sign a resolution of support for the West Virginia Educators Association's Competitive Pay salary campaign at Tuesday's board meeting, which took place at Hodgesville Elementary School.
Craig, who is a special education case manager for Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School and Buckhannon-Upshur High School, said the state's average salary rank has dropped 18 spots from 30th in 1993 to 48th in 2013.
"There's not much more room for us to drop when you look at it," Craig told the board. "The WVEA feels that this has to be the year that we look at competitive salaries, and I know there are a lot of people in our community who look and say, 'Teachers are some of the better paid individuals in our community,' but when you look at the pay rates among our contiguous states, we are 41 percent less than what you make in Maryland.
"To go to Maryland as a beginning teacher, you would make nearly $19,000 more," she continued. "That's a huge amount."
On average, teachers in West Virginia make $45,453 annually - $9,978 less than the national average and $18,860 less than the average salary of teachers in Maryland, according to a WVEA pamphlet Craig provided to board members. Teachers' salaries in bordering states - including Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia - all top what teachers make in the Mountain State, the informational brochure indicates.
"The thing that has hit me the most is last year, there were 1,541 graduates with education degrees in West Virginia's colleges," Craig said. "How many of them do you think are working in West Virginia now? 438. And it's not because there's not jobs. It's because they won't work here for these salaries.
"We're losing some of our best people," she continued. "It's unbelievable what are we going to do? If we don't increase these salaries across the state, I'm not sure what's going to happen to education in West Virginia."
Board member Patrick Long asked if WVEA members have a specific increase amount in mind. Craig replied that the organization is pushing for a multi-year salary increase, either over a three-year or a five-year period.
"They know that they cannot make major moves in one year," she said. "This has to be a multi-faceted project. They would just like to start moving in this direction instead of going further and further down."
Long made a motion to sign the resolution in support of salary increases, which was seconded by board member Greenbrier Almond prior to passing unanimously.
Craig thanked the board for its "vote of confidence" in Upshur County teachers.
Contact Katie Kuba by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at IMT-Kuba.