CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Teacher pay is a concern for a lot of education students here in West Virginia getting ready to graduate this semester. However, it’s not their top concern.

Wednesday West Virginia State University hosted a Teacher Job Fair. Students from WVSU, the University of Charleston and Ohio Valley University got to sit down with 31 education recruiters from Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and West Virginia and interview for jobs.

Ross Thornton, a physical education student at WVSU, graduates in May. He’s from Mason County and said his number one priority is to find a job teaching close to home.

“I was interviewing with Mason, Putnam, Kanawha and Lincoln counties because they’re all within a 45-minute drive,” he said.

Thornton said possibly making less to stay in West Virginia wasn’t that important to him.

“There’s a lot of things teachers can do to supplement their salaries like working during the summer, after-school jobs, coaching, tutoring,” he said.

In fact, salary wasn’t a huge concern for Sara Tulley either, a WVSU Elementary Education student.

“It concerns me that I’m making less than teachers in other states but for West Virginia I think it’s a pretty good salary,” she explained.

Starting teachers in West Virginia earn on average $31,000.

Jenna Tate, who’s about to graduate from UC with a teaching degree, in social studies, wants to move out of state to teach.

“Honestly I’m looking to go to California, the San Francisco Bay area,” she explained.

If she gets a job there the starting salary is about $60,000, almost twice what she’d make here in West Virginia. The number sounds good, but the average salary in the Bay City is $78,000. That’s $18,000 less. Here in West Virginia, the average salary is $28,000. Starting teachers make $3,000 more than the average worker.

West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee pushed for a teacher pay increase this legislative session. Teachers will see an extra $1,000 in their pay checks starting next school year.

Lee said every dollar counts when you’re trying to woo a teacher to stay here in West Virginia.

“We have 800 classrooms across the state without a certified teacher in them. That’s what we had this past year.”

He stressed when you can go to Maryland and make a lot more money, so teachers will make the move.

“Teachers are leaving the profession and leaving the state, going to the contiguous states because they can make more money,” he said.

When it comes to first time teachers, Lee explained, they may overestimate a little about the purchasing power of their $31,000 starting salary.

“It’s when you start to see how your bills pile up and the school loans come due, you realize you are underpaid,” said Lee.

West Virginia ranks 48 in the U.S. when it comes to teacher salaries.

That does not phase Danielle Loehr. The UC student will graduate in May with an elementary education degree. Her priority is staying here in West Virginia.

“[Teacher salaries] are lower but I went into this field knowing that!”

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  • Just my opinion

    There should be no teachers who need to repay student loans. They should have applied for TEACH benefits. Each year teaching in WV takes off one year of loans. Teach 5 years and the loans are excused at no cost to the working teacher. This was a gift from Rockefeller. He knew who to help when he needed votes.

  • rick

    WhgFeeling....the State has plenty of openings...they will start you out at a whopping $ 19 k a year...that is if you have at least a bacholars degree and experience.

    • WhgFeeling

      No need for a degree a HS diploma will get you in the door for 19k/yr for DOC and DOH. I have documented prove you can go from a 19k/yr to 36k/yr increase within 10yrs with the state. I have many friends that have done so.

  • the truth

    Most say it now but I bet half of them will be out of teaching within five years and into different fields due to the pay.
    I am a regular state employee and I would recommend no one come work for the state. Low Pay and no respect is what you get.

    • WhgFeeling

      Respect is earned! I respect the vast majority of state employees but then again they also earned it. I have a hard time respecting anyone that wants to live beyond their means, complains they only get 15 holidays off a year, start out with 12 hrs of sick leave a month and 10hrs of vacation time a month and highly subisdized healthcare.

      I think your benefits are very attractive.

      • the truth

        The state benefit plan you think is attractive is eroded every year. I have seen many private sector plans that were much better. Working as a regular state employee is now a dead end future. You cannot get a raise for hard work or dedication. That has been expressly forbidden by our governor. Its not an attractive benefit package when they have hundreds vacancies that they cannot fill because you get no applicants. Last position in my organization was open two years because we could not get anyone qualified.

  • Aaron

    I certainly agree with Mr. Lee that student loan payments are difficult on an annual salary of $31,000. It should be noted that figure doesn't take into account any supplemental pay by the county, which can be as much as $4000 per year or the fact thanks to the Affordable Care Act, student loans can now combined into one payment and adjusted for income so that payment is much more manageable. Payments are not nearly as high as they used to be. More often than not, they are very affordable and in addition to paying for school, they are a great way for a new employee to begin building their credit.

    That fact that Mr. Lee keeps brings forth student loans and teachers so much leaves me to wonder if he thinks that teaching students are the only individuals who borrow money to pay for school. That is a rhetorical question but it does pique my curiosity in one area.

    While we've seen teacher's salaries in the news often lately, what we haven't see from the unions is an alternative method of rewarding teachers besides salary increases. I've often wondered why Mr. Lee or the other unions have not championed some sort of student loan payment for new teachers to cover those burdensome student loan payments he often mentions or why his union has not lobbied the legislature for some sort of tax credit to allow student loan payments for new teachers to be tax deductible. Both would go a long way in addressing financial issues of new teachers.

    Additionally, as I mentioned on another story, if teachers would exchange sick days for short term disability and not get paid for days absent so that money could then be directed at subs, I (and I believe a great many other taxpayers) would gladly accept a salary increase for that exchange. I’m curious; do none of the representatives look at alternative methods to compensate new teachers besides salary increases?

    • the truth

      You need to consider why has the State Department of Education not stepped forward with any ideas? It appears to me that West Virginia is top heavy at the state level with political flunkies who are more interested in their little kingdoms. Tomblin and Manchin are both control freaks. In hiring an employee as a regular state employee or with anything dealing with pay you must have permission from the Department of Administration. It is just another road block in staffing qualified people.

      • Aaron

        I'm not sure why the State Department of Education would step forward on this issue. Isn't their job to ensure the proper education of our youth, not employment opportunities and benefits analysis for teachers?

        Teacher unions are task with lobbying on behalf of their members. So why do you suppose it is that unions never look to alternative measures of compensating teachers?

        • the truth

          A stable workforce is a key issue. The state agency I work for lurches from one crises to another due because at any give time they are down 20% of their workforce. If you cannot solve this and the main issue is pay. You cannot keep professionals very long if you want to pay them low wages and give no paths to advancement.

          • Aaron S.

            I have no idea what that has to do with my post.

  • voter

    All is great until the mighty teacher's union brainwashes them.

    • the truth

      I know many teachers and I am pretty sure I never hear talk about the teachers union. The vast majority of teachers just want to teach and make a living. People complain about the union but it is their job to increase the teacher pay, that is in any union. I see the other side as a regular state employee. No voice and we get nothing when it comes to pay. They did not even pass the joke of 502.00 recommended by Tomblin. Do you see anything in the media? No, why because we have no voice. I myself would want only merit raises because I produce in my job.

  • Wv only

    Seems like a lot of people on the comment pages hate wv. To those of you that always have negative things to say- if you don't like it here then go live someplace else and shut up.

    • WhgFeeling

      you never gripe about anything that you love?

  • tom

    Yeah, I remember graduating from college thinking that money would not be a major issue with taking a job. Then I was rudely awakened when I found out I had to pay bills!!!

    Ignorance is bliss!!! Just read some more comments from the teacher haters to find out!!!

    • Big Jim


  • Independent View

    SUUUUUUUURE, but just wait until Mr. Lee gets the new teachers cornered in the teacher's lounge!
    And, to the soon-to-be graduate girl wanting a teaching position in the San Fran Bay area at a starting salary of $60K+, better compare the cost of living in that area to WV's. You are in for a rude awakening. Salaries have to be compared relative to the cost of living.

    • Harpers Ferry

      Your comment makes it quite clear that you have never lived in Mon County or in the Eastern Panhandle when it comes to cost of living. I guess Jefferson, Berkeley, Hampshire, Morgan, and Preston Counties (not to mention any counties bordering PA and OH) should have to scrape the bottom of the teachers barrel because other states have pillaged the good teachers with better pay.

      • Aaron

        Would not the issue facing those counties be addressed with differential pay?

        • Harpers Ferry

          I'm not against that. Yet, I will say that it can be argued that some of the best teachers are needed (and should be tempted to stay) in those places where cost of living is lowest, because it's lowest there for a reason. Counties like Mercer, McDowell, Mingo, and Logan (just to name a few) have a low cost of living because there are no jobs, hence the need for a better education. The solution REALLT starts with a wrecking ball to the current curriculum taught in the schools. WV should create one that puts our youth in a position to get, and keep, a job in today's

          • a concerned educator

            Well said, Harpers Ferry!

  • Joe

    Imagine that, people appreciating the opportunity for a good career, good salary and to have both in the state they love.

    Trust me, 1 school year being mentored by a union teacher will change that wonderful attitude.

    • sam

      One year working in the condition found in WV will be what changes the attitude. Reality is a rude awakening.

      • ViennaGuy

        sam, not every county is a rotten place to work. Some are better than others.